Speeches & Communication

2013 Research and Hope Awards -- Robert Hugin's Remarks

PhRMA Chairman Robert Hugin Remarks at 2013 Research and Hope Awards

PhRMA September 16, 2013

Thank you John and thank you Anita [Brickman – local TV reporter who is event MC] for hosting tonight’s celebration.

Let me echo John’s welcome and thank our partners – all representing important elements of the health care ecosystem of innovation – as well as our media partners.

Your support has been crucial to the success of this wonderful event.

Tonight, I stand between you, a good dinner, the far more inspiring Dr. Tom Frieden and the reason we’re all here… honoring the achievements of doctors Fu, Lowy and Schiller and GlaxoSmithKline’s malaria vaccine team.

However I want to offer a few thoughts to hopefully put our celebration in a larger context.

John Castellani spoke eloquently about how innovative vaccines and the work of our honorees help prevent disease, save lives and improve health care in America and around the world.

Certainly, innovative vaccines are an essential part of the revolution of modern medicine – they are one tool of many in the fight against disease.  

This revolution has occurred mostly within the memory of current generations. Only about 100 years separates modern medicine from how it was practiced for thousands of years. Recent advances in science, discovery and innovative technology have transformed our understanding of biology, chemistry, genetics and disease and vastly expanded our ability to help people around the world live longer, healthier lives.  

Since 1935, the Food and Drug Administration has approved around 12,000 New Drug Applications for more than 1,500 New Molecular Entities. Those innovations contributed substantially to the dramatic increases in life expectancy during the 20th century.

And the pace of medical innovation is accelerating. Over 300 innovative medicines have been approved since 2000, accounting for nearly three-quarters of the increase in life expectancy in the first decade of the 21st century.

These new treatments include vaccines like those we celebrate tonight, but also innovative medicines for cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, arthritis, tropical diseases, rare diseases and common, now manageable chronic conditions.

Many of these medicines have led to extraordinary advances in patient health. Others were first steps in new approaches to preventing or fighting disease that are now leading to additional, cumulative innovations that will bring cures within reach. All of these medical advances inspire real hope and promise for a healthier future.

What is perhaps most exciting is that we’re still in the early days of capitalizing on our soaring understanding of molecular biology, chemistry and information technology.

Earlier this year, PhRMA sponsored a report showing there are more than 5,000 medicines in the development pipeline globally to treat or prevent a wide array of diseases. A remarkable 70% of these medicines are potential first in class innovations, with a high proportion in areas of high unmet medical need: cancer, neurology and infectious disease.

These medicines build upon new scientific strategies for fighting disease, such as therapeutic cancer vaccines, RNA interference, cell therapy, gene therapy and conjugated monoclonal antibodies to target tumors while sparing healthy cells.

All of these projects – ones that started 10, 15 and 25 years ago and those just beginning now – move science, medicine and ultimately patient health forward.

And much of this science is being driven here in the United States. Nearly two-thirds of all biopharmaceutical patents originate in the U.S. 

And, there are currently close to 700 medicines in phase three clinical trials in the U.S. alone. Each involves multiple trials. Each involves enormous numbers of patient participants, doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, hospital clinics, universities, information technology specialists, suppliers and more. 

Each contributes to improving science and technology.

Each helps build the economy and promises better value from medicines.

And most importantly, each represents hope for thousands of patients. 

Medical innovation is the crown jewel of the American economy. It has contributed so greatly to the economic success of our country over the last half-century and has made such a meaningful difference in the quality and length of our lives.

Since 1990, for example, medical innovation in the U.S. has resulted in nearly 50 million life years gained for cancer patients. That contributed nearly $3.5 trillion to our economy.  The US government’s $3.8B investment in the Human Genome Project generated private sector activity that paid for itself many times over – every $1 invested created $140 in economic value.

Decades of improving health underscore that pro-innovation and pro-patient policies make a big difference for public health and the economy. In fact, according to a published study, medical innovation has been the source of more than half of all economic growth over the past 50 years. That’s exciting, but it is the lives saved and improved by this research that are beyond value.  We have improved our society by making progress against the most challenging of diseases. 

If we are wise, patient and persistent, this will be the great legacy of our age. 

We must work together to build a positive policy environment to help us meet the many public health challenges we face.

We need risk-takers dedicated to finding solutions who understand that ultimate success is so often elusive -- such as the men and women we honor tonight.

We need basic research supported by the NIH, academic centers and private sector investment.

We need biopharmaceutical research companies and clinical investigators to translate that work into new medicines. 

We need strong, forward looking regulators to help speed breakthrough innovations for patients.

We need patients and patient advocates to help propel medical research forward and ensure that patients have access to new innovations.

And we need a health care delivery system, in both the public sector and the private sector, that provides broad access to the benefits of medical innovation.

If we get medicine and vaccine research and development right – as have tonight’s honorees – we will help to eliminate suffering and accelerate human and economic progress.  In every dimension, those are achievements worth celebrating.

Thank you for being here tonight and thank you again, Doctors Fu, Lowy, Schiller and the members of GSK’s malaria vaccine team both for what you have done for patients and what you continue to do every day.

Please enjoy your dinner.