Following sharp reductions in pediatric medical researchers at the National Institutes of Health, Sens. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, introduced bipartisan legislation to increase pediatric-focused research at the NIH by addressing challenges in researcher recruitment and retention and by creating a pipeline of early-career pediatric researchers.

“I applaud Sen. Coons and Sen. Ernst for their bipartisan leadership in introducing a bill that includes critical provisions needed to support the development of the next generation of pediatric researchers,” said Larry Moss, president and CEO of Nemours Children’s Health System. “Supporting early career investigators is a key priority for the research community, and this bill is an important step forward.”

“I am proud to support investments in pediatric scientists and research that will help reduce the suffering experienced by our nation’s children,” said Coons. “By bolstering the pediatric-scientist workforce, we are creating opportunities for scientific advancements that will not only improve the health and livelihood of kids across the country but also reduce the burden of disease faced by Americans in later-life.”

In addition to Coons and Ernst, the legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Mississippi; Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania; Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi; Michael Bennet, D-Colorado; and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

In the past several years, pediatric research slots have seen sharp reductions within the NIH. This includes reductions of Child Health Research Center Awards, which supports fewer than half of the young investigators that it did in 2010. The Pediatric Scientist Development Program has also seen cuts, having been reduced from supporting 17 training slots per institution down to 10 per institution. These reductions contrast with the consistent increases Congress has provided to the overall NIH budget.

The Pediatricians Accelerate Childhood Therapies Act would establish an NIH-wide grant to support early-career pediatric researchers. The bill also directs the NIH Pediatric Research Consortium to set priorities, improve coordination and collaboration and identify gaps and opportunities to support the development of new treatments and cures for diseases and conditions that affect children across the country.