Local Lawmakers Home in on Health



Two Philadelphia-area mem­bers of Congress who focus on health care were in the spotlight this week — one for delivering a speech on neuroscience at the Israeli Embassy, the other for receiving a prestigious award.
In his Sept. 13 talk at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah of Philadelphia highlighted the need for the American and Israeli governments — as well as private firms — to further invest in potentially life-altering research pertaining to brain diseases.
And on Sept. 14, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz of Montgom­ery County received the Claude Pepper Award from the Alliance for Aging Research at the group’s Annual Bipartisan Congressional Awards Gala. The honor was presented for health care policy leadership on behalf of seniors, according to the organization’s leadership.
This came two weeks after Schwartz — the state’s lone Jewish member of Congress — spoke briefly from the podium at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., about the importance of protecting Medicare. Various media outlets have speculated she may be considering a run for statewide office in 2014.
Fattah and Schwartz, both Democrats, are widely expected to win re-election in November.
Fattah’s speech came as part of the U.S.-Israel Neurotechnology and Neuroscience Conference, which was sponsored by the Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation and involved leading American and Israeli scientists.
Known as the BIRD Foundation, the organization was established by Israel and the United States in 1977 to promote innovation and foster cooperation between Israeli and American firms, particularly in the energy and medical sectors.
During his speech, Fattah — who has championed neuroscience research in the House — focused on a BIRD-funded project in Philadelphia, one that featured a design by the Israeli firm Argo Medical Technologies.
The device is called ReWalk, a lightweight, motorized exoskeleton suit that enables patients with spinal chord injuries, including complete paralysis, to stand, walk and, in some cases, climb stairs. It’s currently used by patients at MossRehab in Elkins Park, part of the Albert Einstein Healthcare Network. The suit was also featured in the popular TV show Glee.
Fattah said he sees more opportunity for American and Israeli firms to partner and push for neuroscience breakthroughs.
“There is room for collaboration and it has been proven to be beneficial,” Fattah said in an interview a few days after the speech. “The message is that the quest for a better understand of neuroscience — Alzheimer’s Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Parkinson’s Disease — this is the real frontier in terms of science. There is need for us working together.” 


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