McMorris Rodgers’ bill harnesses innovative vision for treating eye-related conditions

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) introduced bipartisan legislation that would create a pilot program to increase funding for research, treatments and cures for blindness and other retinal conditions.

“America has led the world in medical innovation, and in order for us to continue to find cures and breakthroughs, we need innovative approaches to research,” Rep. McMorris Rodgers said.

The congresswoman on May 9 introduced the Faster Treatments and Cures for Eye Diseases Act, H.R. 2620, with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, Jr. (D-GA), which would establish a new five-year pilot program to create unique financial instruments called Eye Bonds that would finance packages of loans “to help support projects at small labs, universities and other research centers,” she said.

Rep. McMorris Rodgers’ office added in a written statement that Eye Bonds could raise as much as $1 billion in research funding by incentivizing private investment and would include several safeguards designed to ensure taxpayers are protected and quickly reimbursed for the initial funding required to launch the pilot program, she said.

“I’m proud to lead on this legislation with Rep. Bishop so we can continue to find lifesaving solutions,” said the lawmaker last week.

Eye Bonds-funded research would cover a wide swath of vision-related conditions, including childhood vision loss, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and diabetes retinopathy, among others, and would support treatment for vision trauma, a common injury among U.S. military personnel on the battlefield, according to information provided by Rep. McMorris Rodgers’ office.

If enacted, H.R. 2620 would authorize the National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institutes of Health, to select the eligible projects for funding.

The measure, which has been referred to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee for consideration, is supported by the Foundation Fighting Blindness, the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research, Blinded Veterans of America, among numerous other groups.

U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) is among the cosponsors who joined Rep. McMorris Rodgers in introducing the bill.