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Headlines & Happenings: The Week of March 19

Stria Staff March 23, 2018

We know you’re busy! Here’s what you need to know from the week to keep current, stay smart and make progress.


The NIH Receives a Budget Boost
Late Friday, Congress passed a $1.3 trillion spending bill that increased funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $3 billion. The new funds include $140 million more for brain research, $414 million more for Alzheimer’s research and $40 million more for universal flu vaccine research. From The Washington Post: “‘Sometimes you save the president from himself,’ said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), arguing the administration would not want to be in the position of cutting something like the NIH budget if a new pandemic comes along.” It’s not yet known if Trump will sign the bill. (Update: The President signed the bill on Friday.) Read more on NIH funding from The Hill.

2018 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures
The Alzheimer’s Association released its special report on the impacts of the disease. The report says the costs of Alzheimer’s on America in 2018 is $277 billion—and is projected to rise to $1.1 trillion by 2050. It also says that early diagnosis could save as much as $7.9 trillion in health and long term care expenses. Read the full report here.

Americans Think Pharma Is Too Influential in DC
Kaiser Health released a new tracking poll that found 72 percent of Americans—both Democrat and Republican—view pharmaceutical companies as having too much influence in Washington. It reaffirmed that the majority think drug costs are unreasonable (80 percent in this poll), and found that three in four respondents think neither party in Congress nor the White House are doing enough. But it’s worth noting that the pharmaceutical industry took a hit in the just-passed omnibus spending bill. Despite lobbying efforts, the budget did not include a roll-back of a policy that makes drug companies responsible for 70 percent of Medicare Part D coverage-gap costs (aka the “donut hole”). The Street offers more details.

Questioning the Role of Driverless Cars
You doubtlessly heard that a self-driving Uber hit and killed a pedestrian this week. That incident has sparked a new round of questions about the safety of autonomous vehicles and the role they should play on our roads. While most agree that the potential for driverless care serving seniors is huge, the consensus this week seemed to be that it’s “too soon to tell” if the technology is road-ready. Read perspectives from The Washington Post, The LA Times and CityLab.

This Startup Wants to Preserve Your Brain
Y Combinator is a startup accelerator that says it wants to enable scientists and inventors to bring their work to market. According to TechCrunch, YC is increasingly funding “especially risky frontier technology and biotech moonshots.” Among those presented at the Winter 2018 Demo Day this week was Nectome, which specializes in high-tech brain embalming. The company seeks to offer customers the chance to preserve their brains until science (via Nectome, they hope) has a way to upload your memories to a computer. Here’s MIT Technology Review’s take, and TechCrunch’s list of other presented startups.



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