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Legislative update: U.S. deficit reduction group toils under microscope, Thanksgiving deadline

September 20, 2011
Lori Clark

Lori Clark

In Washington, D.C. …

All eyes in Washington are focused on the activities of the Deficit Reduction Super Committee, which is under a very tight deadline to come up with an additional $1.5 trillion in spending cuts before Thanksgiving or face mandatory reductions in all areas of federal spending.

President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner both have taken to the airwaves in recent weeks discussing their ideas – and there are very stark differences in opinions.

The House and Senate are expected to pass a Continuing Resolution (HJ Res 79) this week that will fund the federal government from Saturday, Oct. 1 (the beginning of the federal fiscal year), through Friday, Nov. 18. The CR would cut 1.5 percent across-the-board from FY2011 levels to meet the $1.043 trillion cap in discretionary spending required by the recent debt ceiling agreement bill.

The Senate Committee on Appropriations approved the FY2012 Defense; Commerce-Justice-Science; Financial Services; and, Legislative Branch appropriations legislation. APLU has prepared an appropriations and budget comparison chart.

IN OTHER NEWS, President Obama signed the America Invents Act. The legislation, passed with bi-partisan support, reforms the U.S. patent system.

In signing the act Friday, Sept. 16, Obama stated “this much-needed reform will speed up the patent process so that innovators and entrepreneurs can turn a new invention into a business as quickly as possible.” The president also announced several additional initiatives intended to help move ideas from the lab to market, including:

  • Launch of new National Institutes of Health (NIH) center to assist biotech entrepreneurs. To help industry shorten the time needed and reduce costs for the development of new drugs and diagnostics, the NIH plans to establish a new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). NCATS aims to help biomedical entrepreneurs by identifying barriers to progress and providing science-based solutions to reduce costs and the time required to develop new drugs and diagnostics.
  • Development of a National Bioeconomy Blueprint. By January 2012, the administration will develop a Bioeconomy Blueprint detailing administration-wide steps to harness biological research innovations to address national challenges in health, food, energy and the environment. The blueprint will focus on reforms to speed up commercialization and open new markets, strategic research and development investments to accelerate innovation, regulatory reforms to reduce unnecessary burdens on innovators, enhanced workforce training to develop the next generation of scientists and engineers and the development of public-private partnerships.
  • University Presidents Commit to Commercialization Initiative. In coordination with the administration, the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, 135 university leaders committed to working more closely with industry, investors and agencies to bolster entrepreneurship, encourage university-industry collaboration and enhance economic development.
  • Coulter Foundation and NSF Launch a University Commercialization Prize with AAAS. This prize competition will be used to identify and promote incentives to adopt best practices that improve university commercialization efforts. Supported by $400,000 in funding from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation and the National Science Foundation, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) will lead the design and implementation of the prize in coordination with a diverse array of partner agencies, foundations, and organizations.
  • Developing University Endowments Focused on Lab to Market Innovations. Today, the Coulter Foundation is announcing that they have selected four new universities to participate in their Translational Research Partnership program – Johns Hopkins University, University of Louisville, University of Missouri and University of Pittsburgh. As part of the program, each university will create a $20 million endowment to foster research collaboration between biomedical engineers and clinicians, with the goal of developing new technologies to improve patient care and human health. Translational research moves new ideas and discoveries from university laboratories to new products and services that directly impact human health, often by creating startups or by partnering with established businesses.
  • New Tools and License Agreements for Start-Ups and Small Businesses. The National Institutes of Health Office of Technology Transfer has developed new agreements for start-up companies obtain licenses for early-stage biomedical inventions developed by intramural researchers at NIH or the Food and Drug Administration. Companies launched in the last five years that have fewer than 50 employees will be eligible to use the new, short-term exclusive Start-Up Evaluation License Agreement and the new Start-Up Commercial License Agreement. These agreements allow a start-up company to take ideas sitting on the shelf and attract additional investments to develop these NIH and FDA inventions into life-saving products.
  • New Help for Small Businesses. In addition, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, in collaboration with NSF and the Small Business Administration, will pilot a program to assist Small Business Innovation Research grant recipients in taking advantage of the USPTO’s small business programs and resources. The USPTO pilot will provide comprehensive intellectual property support to, initially, 100 NSF SBIR grant recipients to take advantage of accelerated examination and benefits stemming from the America Invents Act and will engage external stakeholders to provide pro bono or low-cost intellectual property services to awardees.

In Springfield …

Gov. Quinn left on a trade mission to China.

The House of Representatives is holding a series of hearings regarding the topic of pension reform. Four working groups are dealing with various aspects of pension reform. NIU Vice President Steven D. Cunningham testified last week, and he continues to represent the university at each hearing. We will report any updates as they arise.

The Voices section of NIU Today features opinions and perspectives from across campus. Lori Clark is director of State and Federal Relations for NIU.