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November 8, 2016

From cigarettes to condoms to gene-edited mosquitos: 9 health measures on ballots today

  • Agency
  • Genetics/Genomics
  • Neuroscience

STAT [abridged] - This election has the potential to affect public health and shake up hospitals, drug companies, and insurance industries in dramatic ways. Here are nine issues to watch as results roll in: […]

5. Neuroscience research

Where: Montana

Montanans are slated to vote on a divisive ballot measure that’s focused on neuroscience spending.

The basic idea is to set up the “Montana Biomedical Research Authority,” which would dole out $20 million a year for a decade to fund research on brain diseases and injuries and mental illness. Much like the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, it’d be backed by state bond debt.

Advocates say these grants could help improve neurological care for Montanans — accelerating brain research and expanding the state’s participation in clinical trials. But the detractors argue that there just hasn’t been much success in brain research, citing the slow crawl over the past decade to find any meaningful treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. And they point out that $20 million isn’t much money when it comes to neuroscience research.

6. Gene-edited mosquitoes

Where: Key Haven and Monroe County, Florida

In the wake of the Zika virus, residents of the Florida Keys are voting in two nonbinding referendums on whether the government should begin field trials of a genetically modified mosquito made by Oxitec. The company’s Aedes aegypti produce offspring that die before they are able to reproduce, thus decreasing the total mosquito population and the spread of diseases. The mosquitoes have successfully been used in Brazil, the Cayman Islands, and Panama, but this would be their first use in the US.

In August the Food and Drug Administration gave the green light for the trials to go forward. The final decision rests with the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District.

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Image citation: Erik Hersman, CC BY 2.0