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Schumer: RNA Institute, Cancer Research Center, Poised for Medical Breakthroughs

New York's senior senator sponsors federal legislation to funnel dollars to research at sites such as UAlbany’s to eradicate Breast Cancer in next decade.

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 29, 2013) — U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, speaking at The RNA Institute at the University at Albany, announced his sponsorship of legislation that would funnel federal research dollars to top breast cancer research centers like the UAlbany facility.

The RNA Institute at the University at Albany, working closely with the Cancer Research Center at the University’s School of Public Health, said Schumer, has the potential to create major breakthroughs in breast cancer, and is the leading research center dedicated to RNA technology development, therapeutics and diagnostics in the world. His legislation, which he is sponsoring with a group of colleagues, would create a Commission to Accelerate the End of Breast Cancer, aiming for a cure by the end of the decade through new research technologies and research.

Schumer said this groundbreaking new facility at UAlbany makes New York a national leader in RNA Science, technology development, drug discovery, and diagnostics for the most difficult and drug-resistant diseases. He noted that just as the research on DNA led to an untold number of discoveries, new products, and medicines, RNA research has the potential to revolutionize biomedical science and cancer research as we know it.

In addition to his plan to create a federal task force aimed to help cure and develop more treatments for breast cancer in the next decade, Schumer will vow to bring top federal agency officials to the site to connect with additional opportunities.

Chuck Schumer at UAlbany RNA Institute facilities

Senator Charles Schumer tours The RNA Institute facilties on May 29 with Institute Director Paul Agris, at left. Just behind them are UAlbany President Robert Jones and Albany County Executive Dan McCoy. (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

The RNA Institute and Cancer Research Center present a remarkable opportunity for breakthroughs in breast cancer research, and other biotechnology and medicine, drug diagnostics and treatment,” said Schumer. “I am proud that the nation’s only RNA research center will be right here in the Capital Region at UAlbany, and I want to connect this one-of-kind center with federal research dollars to spur discovery in breast cancer. That’s why I am pushing legislation that will create a federal task force to identify the most promising research in the country, like that going on at facilities like the UAlbany RNA Institute and Cancer Research Center, and get seed funding to those initiatives to help find a cure for breast cancer and other deadly diseases."

Schumer continued, “RNA research, like DNA research, has the potential to unlock an untold number of new technologies, products, and medicines — I am excited to watch the next step of scientific discovery take place here in the Capital Region, and look forward to bringing federal officials to this new facility at UAlbany to unlock additional opportunities.”

“The University at Albany lauds Senator Schumer for recognizing the importance of federal funding to advance RNA research to help cure breast cancer and other challenging diseases,” said Robert Jones, president, University at Albany. “Federal research dollars are critical to growing the success of such research enterprises. In only three years, UAlbany leveraged a $5.4 million NIH grant into more than $15 million of federal support to advance biomedical research and attract world-class scientists to The RNA Institute.”

Schumer was joined by UAlbany President Jones, Director of the RNA Institute Paul Agris, Director of UAlbany Cancer Research Center Martin Tenniswood, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy, New York State Assembly member Patricia Fahy, and representatives from To Life!, a breast cancer education and support organization.

Schumer highlighted that the Accelerating the End of Breast Cancer Act 2013 would create the first-of-its-kind government proposal that would aim to ensure that the nation’s limited research dollars are leveraged to accelerate progress in the study and treatment of breast cancer that is already underway. The bill would create a federal commission, comprised of researchers and advocates, that would identify promising and underdeveloped areas of breast cancer research from across the country at sites like UAlbany, and oversee the disbursement of $20 million in seed funds to worthy initiatives in the field. The Accelerating the End of Breast Cancer Act leverages past investments and focuses on identifying strategies for primary prevention, stopping women from getting breast cancer, and understanding and preventing metastasis (the spread of cancer), which is responsible for 90 percent of breast cancer deaths. The panel would report its findings on an annual basis to Congress, the White House and the public.

This commission would seek to harness the nation’s continued drive for innovation, and help ensure the U.S.’s position as the worldwide leader in medical and scientific advancement. Building on decades of investment and achievement in these areas, plus new underutilized areas of research, like RNA research, Schumer argued that America has the potential to significantly cut back on breast cancer deaths and learn how to prevent the disease within the next decade.

In the U.S., 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, up from 1 in 11 in 1975. Nationwide, health care costs associated with breast cancer totaled $16.5 billion in 2010 and resulted in $12.1 billion in lost productivity, according to an estimate by the National Cancer Institute.

In 2011, The RNA Institute secured a $5.4 million federal grant from the National Institutes of Health. The Institute was then able to leverage $10 million in public and private research funding. Schumer noted that with a proven public-private partnership like the RNA Institute, a small investment can go a long way.

RNA, or ribonucleic acid, is the only product of DNA which turns genes in the body “on” and “off” and is believed to hold great potential in the study of the underlying causes of disease, as well as in treatment of such illnesses as drug-resistant bacterial infections. The study of RNA is still a relatively new field, but has the potential to be as fruitful as the study of DNA. In the last 6 years alone, 8 Nobel Prizes in science have been awarded for RNA research.

The RNA Institute, comprising more than 50 principal corporate, government, and university research entities that employ more than 300 staff members in New York's Capital Region alone, serves as a sustainable resource for the research and discovery of medical interventions and diagnostics aimed at treating a range of human and hard-to-treat diseases – from breast cancer to drug-resistant bacterial and viral infections, drug-resistant TB and HIV, depression, and neurodegenerative and neuromuscular disorders such as ALS and neurofibromatosis. In conjunction with scientific discovery and research, The RNA Institute will offer resources for small, medium and large biomedical businesses to spur the development of start-up companies, new R&D centers, and related business operations in New York State through public-private partnerships. In collaboration with the University's School of Business, The RNA Institute will offer researchers tools and strategies to assess the marketplace and successfully develop and commercialize intellectual property in the Capital Region.

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