Appropriations Chairman Stresses Importance of IDeA Program, Jackson Heart Study

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, today advocated continued support for federally-funded medical research conducted by small, rural states like Mississippi that benefits underserved communities.

At a hearing of the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, Cochran questioned representatives from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on the agency’s priorities for the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program. IDeA is designed to support biomedical research in states with historically limited access to federal research grants in order to diversify where medical research is conducted.

“The IDeA grant recipients in Mississippi have produced breakthroughs in medical research,” Cochran said. “There are certainly benefits that can be gained by utilizing National Institutes of Health research funding in nontraditional research centers as we have seen with the Jackson Heart Study. As we work through the budget process this year, I will support funding to keep this program successful.”

Dr. Jon Lorsch, director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which funds the IDeA program, pledged continued support for the program, saying that it is “one of my favorite things to talk about,” and that the agency “is committed to this program and thinks it’s an important part of our portfolio.”

The President’s FY2016 budget request for NIH recommends $273 million for IDeA, level with FY2015 funding. Mississippi is among 23 states and Puerto Rico currently eligible for IDeA grant awards.

In 2012, Cochran hosted NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins in Mississippi to highlight the importance of medical research for rural states. In 2014, Mississippi received $43.17 million from the NIH for research, training, fellowships, and construction, including $11.2 million from the IDeA program.

At the hearing, Dr. Gary Gibbons of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute praised the Jackson Heart Study, calling it “a national treasure” that “has helped us understand the drivers of coronary disease in African Americans.” He highlighted the study’s role in identifying the genetic basis for the predisposition of African Americans to develop end stage kidney failure driven by high blood pressure, saying that these “pathways will give us insight into how we might prevent [heart] disease.”

Gibbons continued, telling Senator Cochran that “you should be quite proud of this national resource in Jackson, Mississippi.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African Americans have a higher likelihood of being diagnosed with coronary heart disease, and are 30 percent more likely to die from heart disease. The Jackson Heart Study is the only NIH longitudinal cohort study completely focused on the African American community in order to address this health disparity and ensures that medical breakthroughs benefit those who need it most.