Durbin hails another $50 million for Chicago biotech - Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

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RIC in the News

Published on January 04, 2016

Source: Crain's

Durbin hails another $50 million for Chicago biotech

By Greg Hinz

Local biotech researchers should be in line for roughly $50 million more in federal cash this year as a result of some little-noticed tweaks included in the big budget deal that passed Congress a few weeks ago.

According to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the measure boosted fiscal 2016 spending for biomedical research by the most in several years after a period of relative austerity. The National Institutes of Health alone will get a 6.64 percent increase to $32.08 billion nationally, and if Illinois gets its usual share, that could amount to $50 million on top of the $710 million local institutions and scientists got last year.

"With the support of robust, sustained federal funding, there is no limit to what science can do to prevent, treat and cure diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's," Durbin said at a news conference at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. "After lots of bad news, there's some good news out of Washington."

Officials from NU and the Rehabilitation Institute said the enhanced funding is more than welcome.

Dr. Milan Mrksich, associate director of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at NU, said the facility is focusing on subjects including nanotech and "personalized" treatments. Researchers have had considerable success in the past, he said, but lately a disturbing trend has arisen: "a reverse brain drain as top researchers move their labs to Europe and Asia," where better funding is available.

Dr. Todd Kuiken, director of the Rehab Institute's Center for Bionic Medicine, made his point by waving an unusual prop: a bionic arm with "really neat" artificial fingers.

Thanks to research, the latest devices are lighter and can perform more tasks than past prosthetics, Kuiken said. But research is continuing on how to improve nerve connections so the devices are even more usable.

Biotech funding has been a sort of tradition for Illinois' congressional delegation, first led by former north suburban Rep. John Edward Porter. Durbin is sponsoring legislation to provide annual budget increases of 5 percent plus inflation, and argued that the investment would pay major returns.

"Every 67 seconds, someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with Alzheimer's," he said. "How important is this (research)."

Overall, according to the senator, the $710 million in NIH funding last year supported 14,000 jobs and had a total economic impact of $2 billion.

For full article, including illustrations, video, and comments, go to: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20160104/BLOGS02/160109988/durbin-hails-more-u-s-funds-for-chicago-biotech