Congressional Briefing on the NCI SEER Program
At the request of Senator Edward M. Kennedy's (D-Mass.) office, on behalf of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, a congressional briefing was held on Feb. 11, 2004, to inform minority staff about NCI's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program. Drs. Brenda Edwards, Jon Kerner, Ben Hankey, and Martin Brown from NCI's Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences explained the types of data collected by SEER, how the data are used, and the extreme care given to collecting quality data elements - all of which make the program a unique resource for analysis and prediction of cancer information. Discussion about the ongoing collaborative interaction between SEER and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Registry and the high-profile initiatives undertaken jointly in the last five years helped clarify how the two organizations interact and continue to improve the data-collection system. Also discussed were the high level of sophistication and skill required for SEER data collection and analysis, and the need to focus on building SEER's work force capacity.
This Medicare reform act became law (Public Law 108-173) on Dec. 8, 2003 and implementation plans are under way. A provision of the act, under the Health Care Infrastructure Improvement Program, establishes a loan program to provide loans to qualifying hospitals for construction and improvement of infrastructure. Qualifying hospitals are engaged in research on the causes, prevention, and treatment of cancer and are NCI-designated cancer centers, or are designated as a state's official cancer center. Funds may be used to improve the health care infrastructure of the hospital, including construction, renovation, or other capital improvements. Funding for this program authorizes appropriations of $200 million to be available from Jul. 1, 2004 through Sept. 30, 2008.
Many research advocates are concerned that a loophole in intellectual property law will discourage collaboration among institutions, both public and private. However, a bill gaining momentum in Congress may close the loophole. The Cooperative Research and Technology Enhancement (CREATE) Act of 2003 (HR 2391) cleared the House Judiciary Committee on Jan. 21 and appears to be headed to the floor with bipartisan support. The loophole arises from a 1997 federal circuit court decision allowing a third party to challenge the validity of a patent achieved through collaboration. CREATE is intended to promote communication among researchers at multiple organizations, discourage those who would use the discovery process to harass co-inventors voluntarily collaborating on research, and accelerate the commercial availability of new inventions.