U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the senior Republican on the U.S. Senate health committee, today praised Senate passage of his bill to reduce infant deaths and disabilities by expanding research, education, and intervention activities related to premature birth.

The House passed the bill on Tuesday, and it now heads to the president’s desk. The legislation marks an important step for Alexander' home state — the rate of premature births in Tennessee is higher than 12 percent.”

“This bill will help the scientists and researchers working on saving infant lives and preventing births from happening too early," Alexander said, in a release. “We have made great progress since we first put the spotlight on premature birth, but it remains the leading killer of newborns and a major cause of lasting disabilities.”

The “PREEMIE” bill passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in February. The legislation, which Alexander introduced with Sen.Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), reauthorizes theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) research and programs on preterm birth, including improving national data tracking on preterm birth, and conducting studies.

The bill also reauthorizes programs at the Health Resources and Services Administration aimed at improving the treatment and outcomes for infants born premature.

Two additional provisions were aded to the bille before it passed, including a provision for chimpanzee care for the National Institutes of Health; and a provision to create a National Pediatric Research Network to encourage more support of pediatric research.