FDA Plans Updates to Its Science, Tech

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FDA approval allows many companies to make a ton of money, but the agency has long been hopelessly underfunded. Now, it hopes to put some money toward modernizing the way they operate.

The new initiative, announced in a white paper Wednesday by FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, aims to dedicate $25 million during the next year to modernize its evaluation and approval processes and build partnerships in academia, industry and government.

The effort comes on the heels of a budget request by President Obama to improve what the agency calls regulatory science – “the science of developing new tools, standards and approaches to assess the safety, efficacy, quality and performance of FDA-regulated products” – according to the white paper. That $25 million is part of a larger $4 billion budget increase for the agency that Congress has yet to approve.

Among the initiatives outlined in the report were a number of programs relating to food safety – a topic on everyone’s mind lately in the wake of a number of high-profile food recalls. The recall of more than 500 million eggs due to salmonella contamination was evidently a wake-up call to the agency, which is tasked with preventing, tracking and responding to outbreaks of food-borne illness. The paper detailed a number of tools it hopes to use for responding to future incidents, including hand-held devices for sampling and analysis, technology to identify sources of outbreaks and ways to monitor antibiotic resistance in food-borne pathogens.

The agency also announced its intention to modernize its methods for safety testing, including reducing its reliance on animal testing. It also presented a number of initiatives specifically related to tobacco regulation, including determining which toxic components are most closely associated with various diseases known to be connected to tobacco products.

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