Connecting with Washington

The Neurotechnology Industry Organization’s public policy day on March 29 [see article p7] was notable for a number of reasons. To begin with, it represents the first organized effort to promote neurotechnology in Washington. The group succeeded in arranging meetings with several senators, congress members, and agency directors. Senators John Kerry, Pete Domenici, and Mike Enzie were particularly receptive, according to NIO executive director Zack Lynch.

The effort was also noteworthy because the NIO presented its National Neurotechnology Initiative (NNTI) to industry representatives and government officials. Patterned after successful federal investment initiatives such as the Nanotech Initiative and the Human Genome Project, NNTI seeks to secure government funding to establish national research centers in neurotechnology, for major research initiatives in neurotechnology, and to accelerate translational development.

Although this represents a good first effort at building awareness for neurotechnology in Washington, we would like to see the initiative’s goals more tightly focused on problems confronting neurotech device manufacturers. The fact that there were only three device manufacturers taking part in the policy day makes us worry that our message may get diluted by the overwhelming presence of neuro pharma firms in the mix. For example, one of the major hurdles neurotech device firms face getting new products to market is that many of the standards the FDA uses in the approval process are put in place by regulators more accustomed to the pharmaceutical industry than neurotech interventions. We doubt that this issue can be raised effectively by an industry group heavily slanted toward the pharma industry.

We also would have liked to have seen the policy day include meetings with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In general, neurotech device industry executives’ loudest complaints relate to some of the absurd policies and procedures at this agency. Lynch assures us that CMS will be on the agenda for the next policy day and it would be worthwhile for many more neurotech device executives to participate if it can lead to a productive discussion with policymakers.

We were pleased to see the active participation of Jennifer French and the Neurotech Network in this year’s policy day. As she did at the AAAS press conference in February [NBR Feb07p2], French used her own disability and her FES success story as a powerful example of what can be accomplished for individuals with neurological disorders if we give them—and the available treatments—the attention they deserve. We hope that NIO and Neurotech Network will work together in the future to ensure that this often-overlooked segment does not get lost in the push for national research centers and major research initiatives

James Cavuoto
Editor and Publisher



site design by shalatdesign |