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Burr: U.S. Must Foster Greater Innovation at Home, Mitigate Potential Foreign Influence Risks to Maintain Edge

Senate HELP Committee examines foreign threats to America’s biomedical research enterprise amid COVID-19 pandemic

Today, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing entitled, “Protecting U.S. Biomedical Research: Efforts to Prevent Undue Foreign Influence.” This is the first hearing the Committee has held with Administration officials to examine foreign threats to American biomedical research in the 117thCongress.

In his prepared opening statement, Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) detailed the credible, ongoing threats to America’s biomedical research enterprise by foreign adversaries, most notably the People’s Republic of China. Ranking Member Burr also highlighted the valuable role of the private sector, academia, and global collaboration in maintaining America’s leadership in biomedical innovation.

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WATCH: Ranking Member Burr delivers opening statement before Committee hearing on protecting American investment in biomedical research


From where I sit now, and how I spend my time, I want to impress upon my colleagues here today – this threat is real, it is credible, and it is dangerous to our way of life in America.

“We cannot be complacent.

“This hearing is about the efforts of foreign actors to influence the biomedical research enterprise.

“The Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Communist Party are the most sophisticated perpetrators, but other foreign actors are also engaged in efforts to subvert our biomedical research. 

“Our adversaries are engaging in a systematic effort to infiltrate the academic research community and siphon away the results of United States spending on biomedical research...

“Our enemies are targeting vulnerabilities in our biomedical research enterprise because it is an easy target...This means that our advancements in biomedical research are at grave risk. It means that the billions of taxpayer dollars that are invested each year toward discoveries are leveraged or outright stolen by our adversaries. And, it means that our enemies can capitalize on the billions of dollars that American taxpayers invest every year to beat us to the punch on the next game-changing technology to save lives or to cause unimaginable harm.

“This year, Congress appropriated 43 billion dollars to the NIH for biomedical research.  And we know that over time, for every one dollar spent on basic research at the NIH, the private sector spends about eight dollars. 

“That’s a lot of money, and the United States has historically been the undisputed leader in biomedical innovation, so it’s easy to see why the government of China is trying to steal our secrets and eliminate our competitive advantage. 

“Global collaboration has been, and will always be, the key to our success in maintaining global leadership in our advancements... 

“So, we must think about how to foster greater innovation at home, mitigate potential risks associated with foreign influence, and maintain our edge.

“Because deception and theft are not a valid competitive tool, and we need to be aware that this is happening more than we’d like to admit.

“I made this case for Five Eyes partners, the intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, to tackle the issue of 5G for our cellular technology, and I think it also makes sense when we discuss our funding and advancements in biomedical research.

“North Carolina benefits each year from over $1 billion in NIH-funded research. 

“Along with their accomplishments and discoveries, our research institutions have seen firsthand what our enemies will do to steal our most valuable secrets and assets in research. 

“There is a concerted effort by individuals from China, backed by their government, to be educated in America and to work for 10 years here, with the full intent to bring back to China’s government everything they can learn, store, or steal.

“I have cautioned the research institutions in my state to prepare for a reality with different revenue streams, and encouraged them to rely less on researchers from the countries whose governments seek to do us harm. 

“We must balance the rewards of this research with the risks to our country.

“This threat reaches into many facets of our country.

“The private sector is also experiencing this threat, and our solutions to these issues will require their input, participation, and partnership.

“There is no easy path, but if we concede the innovation race, our global competitiveness and our national security will be at risk.”

To read Ranking Member Burr’s full opening statement, click here.