Raised by hard-working immigrant parents, Tony Cárdenas was brought up with simple ideals – that integrity and dedication were the keys to success. These are the qualities that he has brought to his career as a public servant, and he continues to offer today as a United States Congressman.
Rep. Cárdenas was first elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2013 for the 113th Congress (2013-2014) and has represented California’s 29th district since. Now in the 114th Congress (2015-2016), Rep. Cárdenas sits on the prestigious House Committee on Energy and Commerce and its Health Subcommittee, which have jurisdiction over health-related bills, resolutions and regulatory agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration.
The California Life Science Association recently recognized the Congressman for his commitment to advancing the life sciences industry and helped facilitate a tour at the Fogarty Institute to showcase our startups and approach to medtech innovation.
We had the pleasure of talking to Rep. Cárdenas about his visit to the Bay Area, his thoughts on the opportunities and challenges in our industry and details on current legislation he is overseeing.
Q. What was the purpose of your visit to Silicon Valley, some of your favorite stops and key takeaways?
A. As a member with a seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee, which oversees the laws and public policy that impact the health care sector, I make a point of visiting as many stakeholders in the industry throughout California as I can. Last year I had the opportunity to tour locations in Southern California, and this year I completed the tour throughout the Bay Region of California.
I thoroughly enjoyed every visit for different reasons. The health sector in California is so vast and diverse, you really can’t pick one portion of it as the most interesting or the most important. Every piece has an important role to play in ensuring that the rest of the country’s population has access to the most innovative and effective treatments and therapies. I also really appreciated the time that everyone took to meet with my staff and me.
Q. What are your thoughts on the role the Institute plays in the medtech innovation ecosystem and what most surprised you or made the strongest impression about the organization?
A. Places like the Fogarty Institute are critical for the industry. Most of the new treatments, therapies and technologies are discovered by smaller companies that don’t necessarily have access or funds for expensive labs and instruments that larger players have. Also, the ability to walk down the hall and hear about what other small startups are working on is really inspiring for the needed creativity to keep the U.S., and especially California, ahead of everyone else in healthcare innovation.
I was able to meet with interns at the Institute from around the country on their last day of their internship. It’s wonderful to see these young scientists gaining hands-on experience from the Fogarty Institute, which is a wonderful source of innovation.
Q. What are your views on the role medical technology innovation plays on fostering jobs and boosting our economy?
A. Medical technology innovation is absolutely critical to economic success in the United States. We have to do everything we can to ensure we have young, eager scientists entering their work field with innovative ideas and solutions to a lot of questions that remain unsolved like the cure for diabetes, Alzheimer’s or cancer. As these technologies are created, they will lead to the creation of more jobs – and ultimately to the sustainability of the health of these workers.
Q. What challenges and opportunities are you seeing in healthcare and in advancing innovation?
A. We must continue to foster innovation in our healthcare industry, and California is a wonderful example of that. California has an ecosystem that could be a standard for the rest of the country. In California, we are able to recruit the best talent in the world from the great university system, and we have some of the largest, most innovative companies headquartered in the state. These jobs and workers need to continue to grow and be maintained in order for our continued success as a state and as a nation.
Q. Which legislation that you have worked on are you most proud of and / or what are some of the initiatives you are currently working on to promote medical innovation?
A. I am glad to have been able to work on The 21st Century Cures Act, which essentially would give our life sciences industry a competitive advantage at fostering innovation to create cures, therapies, technologies and treatments.
21st Century Cures is the kind of legislation I came to Washington to work on.
California is full of people doing amazing work to find cures for diseases that shorten the lives of too many Americans. In passing this bill out of the Energy and Commerce Committee and then the House, we give these brilliant researchers hope that America is behind them; that we will support their heroic efforts to keep our loved ones with us, living longer and healthier lives. I hope that the Senate is able to pass the bill quickly and send it to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
Next year we in the Committee will begin consideration of the next reauthorization of the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA), which authorizes the FDA to collect fees from companies that produce certain human drug and biological products. It’s a great opportunity for Congress, the FDA, industry and patients to work together towards enhancing the FDA’s ability to keep pace with scientific advances in drugs, therapies, technologies and cures.