Profiles of Progress: Members of Congress Fighting for Cures

Released: 2010

Senator Bob Casey, Jr.

Many years before becoming a Senator, Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. was concerned about the health of his father, Bob Casey Sr., the 44th governor of Pennsylvania. Bob Casey Sr. had been diagnosed with amyloidosis, a rare genetic condition where proteins invade and destroy bodily organs.

“We were worried. We were scared. There was no cure for the disease. There is still no cure for the disease. But my father was undergoing treatment, and even after he had an organ transplant, there was rejection of the organ, and we weren’t sure he was going to survive,” said Sen. Casey.

But thanks to medicine that had been specifically designed, via research, to aid with transplantation rejection, Bob Casey, Sr. did survive and go on to complete his second term as Governor.

Sen. Casey’s father benefited from biomedical research conducted at the University of Pittsburgh, which receives funds from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Sen. Casey believes NIH investment is crucial to medical research and the corresponding scientific advancements made in labs not just at the University of Pittsburgh, but across the country.

“Biomedical research brings light where there’s real darkness in people’s lives because they think there’s no cure, no way to deal with the disease or a condition,” said Sen. Casey. “And over time, because of the wonders of research and brainpower that Americans are so well known for, and our spirit of innovation, we’re able to use the research dollars that NIH spends every year to provide cures and treatments that even a few years earlier, may not have seemed possible.”

That’s why, even in a time of tough budget decisions, Sen. Casey believes it’s so critical to make investments in biomedical research and NIH.

“If you have a difficult federal budget and revenues are more difficult to come by, then that’s the time that you have to make sure that you don’t go off course,” he said.

For Sen. Casey, biomedical research is not just about the discoveries and cures; it’s also an economic engine that spurs job growth in Pennsylvania. He said, “There are not just a lot of jobs created [by research], but they are high paying jobs. When we talk about the jobs of the future that we’re trying to create – the high-skilled, high-wage jobs that we want to create here instead of losing our edge – those are the jobs that are being created by biomedical research.”

Specifically in Pennsylvania, Sen. Casey believes there are far-reaching benefits of biomedical research, “at both ends of our state. Not just in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but a lot of places in between, where direct dollars go for research in universities and other research institutions where we’ve seen the benefits for the people of Pennsylvania.”

And just as biomedical research helps his state, Pennsylvania returns that investment by developing some of the nation’s top research projects in Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, HIV, and many other diseases. According to Sen. Casey, “The research that gets done in Pennsylvania has affected the country and the world in a very positive way.”

If America doesn’t make the necessary investment in biomedical research, Sen. Casey feels that other countries will.

“You have a lot of emerging economies around the world. And unless we keep our edge and invest in education, invest in research and development, and especially in the biomedical area, we’re going to fall behind. We’ve got to make sure that we don’t lose that American edge that we’ve had for so long,” he said.

The payoff for a strong U.S. commitment to research, according to Sen. Casey, is that Americans all across the country will live longer, healthier, more productive lives.

“We as Americans have the important investments we make in education. We have that spirit of innovation. People who want not just to find a cure, but to be able to take it from the research setting out to the market so that Americans can benefit from that research directly.”

Thanks to that American spirit of innovation that drives biomedical research and strengthens biomedical research funding, people everywhere are able to experience the tremendous service that the Casey family – both father and son – have done for the people of Pennsylvania.

As Sen. Casey said “Biomedical research didn’t just benefit my father, it benefits the lives of fathers and mothers everywhere.”