House passes bill to establish national imaging institute

October 11, 2000

The U.S. House of Representatives showed its support for bioimaging research Sept. 27 when it passed and sent to the Senate legislation that would establish a national imaging institute.A Senate vote on HR 1795 (SCAN, 3/15/00, 9/27/00) has not

The U.S. House of Representatives showed its support for bioimaging research Sept. 27 when it passed and sent to the Senate legislation that would establish a national imaging institute.

A Senate vote on HR 1795 (SCAN, 3/15/00, 9/27/00) has not been scheduled, and the bill’s fate if it reaches the president’s desk is uncertain. Throughout the legislative process, the NIH has opposed new institute proposals, apparently fearful that funding would be spread more thinly. However, the agency did not send a witness to the subcommittee hearing, choosing instead to file written testimony that opposed creation of an imaging institute.

The true test will come during congressional budget hearings this winter and when the president actually has to approve NIH spending for the next fiscal year. This is one of those noncrucial pieces of legislation that could be left behind.

The bill, HR 1795, passed overwhelmingly by a voice vote. It had sat in the House for only two weeks, having passed through the House Commerce Committee Sept. 14 in a similar fashion. That vote followed approval by a House subcommittee a day earlier.

The bill supports establishment of a National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. Funding for the project is expected to come from monies currently allocated for basic imaging research by the National Institutes of Health.

“We’re extremely pleased with the vote,” said Edward Nagy, executive director of the Academy of Radiology Research. “It was a very strong show of support by the House—no one spoke in opposition. That’s certainly the result we wanted, and we hope it will give us some momentum to push forward in the Senate.”

The ARR is a lobbying group that has spearheaded efforts to establish the institute. The academy and other proponents are hoping a companion bill, SB 1110, will receive approval by the Senate. That bill, which differs only slightly from the House version, is awaiting action in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee’s subcommittee on public health.

The NIH did not comment on the Sept. 14 committee approval, stating it could not discuss pending federal legislation with the media. The NIH again declined to comment after the bill passed the House.

The NIH aside, support for the legislation has been broad. Lobbying for approval of the bill have been Kodak, GE Medical Systems, Fischer Imaging, and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association.

Once established, the institute would concentrate its efforts on developing new technologies that are applicable to multiple specialties. The bill passed by the House specifies a focus on new techniques and tools, technology assessment and outcomes studies, and research that combines pure science and medical disciplines.

“Passage of this bill in the House was not just a victory for radiology, but a big step forward for American medicine and the American people,” said Dr. William G. Bradley, chairman of the American College of Radiology board of chancellors’ Commission on Neuroradiology and MRI. “Radiology touches every aspect of medicine. The creation of this institute acknowledges both the research we’ve done already and the potential we have for doing so much more.”

Others offered a word of caution.

“This is not a National Institute of Radiology by any stretch of the imagination, and it does not guarantee any additional funding for radiology research by radiologists,” said Dr. Jeffrey C. Weinreb, a professor of radiology at New York University School of Medicine. “More than ever, radiology is going to have to fight for its place at the table and its share of the pie. The real work is only beginning, and it is critical for the entire radiology community, private practice, and academia to come together and figure out how they can provide the resources and personnel to support serious and fundable research endeavors.”

He praised the ARR for its lobbying efforts.

“Establishment of a National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering would be an affirmation of the preeminent position that imaging has assumed in medicine and biological research, and the Academy of Radiology deserves a tremendous credit for shepherding this through Congress,” Weinreb said. “It could present a tremendous opportunity for radiology and radiologists.”