Research!America To Honor Leaders in Medical and Health Research Advocacy
Robin Roberts, Michael Milken, Dr. Kenneth Olden, David Van Andel, Dr. George Vande Woude and the Society for Neuroscience to Receive 2015 Research!America Advocacy Awards
ALEXANDRIA, Va.—September 29, 2014—Research!America’s 19th annual Advocacy Awards will honor distinguished research advocates who are trailblazers in advancing medical progress to improve the health and economic security of our nation. The event will take place on Wednesday, March 11, 2015, at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, DC.
The 2015 Advocacy Award winners are ABC’s “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts; Michael Milken, founder of the Milken Institute and FasterCures; Dr. Kenneth Olden, Director, National Center for Environmental Assessment, U.S. EPA; David Van Andel, Chairman and CEO, and Dr. George Vande Woude, Founding Scientific Director, Van Andel Research Institute; and the Society for Neuroscience (SfN).
“These exceptional leaders have advanced scientific discovery and innovation through their determination to improve the health of individuals worldwide,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. “Their work has paved the way for others who are committed to ensuring that we save lives and sustain our nation’s global competitiveness with robust support for research.”
Robin Roberts, who will receive the Isadore Rosenfeld Award for Impact on Public Opinion, is anchor of ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Her headline-making interviews include President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, actor Sidney Poitier, as well as basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on his battle with leukemia, and Lisa Niemi on the loss of her beloved husband, Patrick Swayze. Roberts has also traveled to the Middle East with former First Lady Laura Bush, who was on a mission to raise awareness about breast cancer in the Muslim world; and to Africa with former President Bill Clinton for a first-hand look at the AIDS crisis in that part of the world. Roberts was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2007. Her courageous and public battle has been recognized with awards and honors from organizations around the country, including The Susan G. Komen Foundation, The Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program, and Gilda’s Club, a non-profit organization founded by the late Joel Siegel.
Michael Milken, selected to receive the Gordon and Llura Gund Leadership Award, has led a wide range of initiatives over four decades that have supported public health, re-envisioned education, expanded access to capital and accelerated medical research. Esquire magazine listed him among “The 75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century.” Beginning in 1972, his efforts to advance medical solutions, especially by supporting young investigators, were recognized in a Fortune magazine cover story called “The Man Who Changed Medicine.” Mike formalized his previous philanthropy in 1982 by co-founding the Milken Family Foundation, a major force for medical research and education reform. In 1998, he led a March on Washington in support of increased funding for biomedical research. When funding increases slowed in 2003, he founded FasterCures, which works to remove bureaucratic and regulatory barriers to progress against all life-threatening diseases. In March 2014, George Washington University announced the naming of the Milken Institute School of Public Health in recognition of a gift from the Institute.
Dr. Kenneth Olden, director of the National Center for Environmental Assessment, U.S. EPA, will be honored with the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Award for Sustained National Leadership. He is considered to be the strongest champion of community based participatory research in the U.S. He was named director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the director of the National Toxicology Program (NTP) on June 18, 1991, by Dr. Louis Sullivan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Dr. Olden is a cell biologist and biochemist by training, and has been active in cancer research for more than four decades. He was director of the Howard University Cancer Center and professor and chairman of the Department of Oncology at Howard University Medical School in Washington, D.C. from 1985–1991, and founding dean of the School of Public Health at the City University of N.Y. from 2008-2012. Dr. Olden has served on the editorial boards of cancer and cell biology journals, he was elected to membership in the Institute of Medicine in 1994, and was named by President George H. W. Bush to the National Cancer Advisory Board in January 1991.
David Van Andel and Dr. George Vande Woude, have been selected to receive the Geoffrey Beene Foundation Builders of Science Award. Van Andel is Chairman and CEO of Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Van Andel Institute has become a major contributor to science with the recruitment of top scientists and funding support. Work at the Institute encompasses basic as well as translational research, fueling developments in treatments for cancer and neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s. Van Andel is an entrepreneur involved in several business interests in the natural and life science products industries. The Van Andel family, co-founder of Amway, has been exceptionally generous to the Grand Rapids community. An endowment from Jay and Betty Van Andel covers the Institute’s operating costs, which enables 100 percent of all donations to go directly to research and education.
Dr. Vande Woude is among the pioneers who laid the foundation for our understanding of the molecular basis of cancer. As the director of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Basic Research Program in Frederick, Maryland, he recruited world class researchers and implemented a vital research review process. From 1995 to 1998 he served as special adviser to the director of the National Cancer Institute, helping streamline intramural basic science at NCI. In 1999, he was selected to be the first director of the Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) where, in concert with David Van Andel, he built an exceptional cancer research program from the ground up.
The Society for Neuroscience (SfN), selected to receive the Paul G. Rogers Distinguished Organization Advocacy Award, is the largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to advancing understanding of the brain and nervous system, with nearly 40,000 members drawn over 130 chapters around the globe and members from more than 100 countries. The Society’s mission is to advance understanding of the brain and nervous system, provide professional development activities and educational resources for neuroscientists at all stages of their careers, educate the public about the wonders of the brain, and advocate for policies that promote research. SfN advocates for robust science funding to advance science and health, and for policies that support responsible animal research. The Society also publishes The Journal of Neuroscience, the largest weekly scholarly journal dedicated to neuroscience discovery, and recently launched eNeuro, a neuroscience-focused, open access journal.
The annual Research!America Advocacy Awards program was established by the Board of Directors in 1996 to honor outstanding advocates for medical, health and scientific research. Recognized individuals and organizations are those whose leadership efforts have been notably effective in advancing our nation’s commitment to research. For more information about the 2015 Advocacy Awards Dinner, visit www.researchamerica.org/advocacy_awards.
Research!America is the nation’s largest nonprofit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority. Founded in 1989, Research!America is supported by member organizations that represent the voices of 125 million Americans. Visit www.researchamerica.org.
By Israel Rocha, CEO, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance
September 15 marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, a time to pay tribute to the generations of Hispanics who have enriched America’s history. It’s also an important time to consider how this community can be further empowered to make important contributions, particularly in the future of health care.
Research demonstrates that certain diseases disproportionately impact the Hispanic community, including diabetes, liver cancer, cervical cancer and HIV/AIDS. Clinical trials help researchers find better ways to diagnose, prevent and treat these diseases and others. However, Hispanics are significantly underrepresented in clinical trials. Despite representing 16 percent of the U.S. population, Hispanics comprise only 1 percent of clinical trial participants.
Given this historic underrepresentation, there is tremendous opportunity to boost clinical trial participation within diverse patient populations. According to a July 2013 study by Research!America:
- More than 40 percent of Hispanics greatly admire clinical trial participants.
- More than 2/3 of Hispanics would be willing to share health information to help researchers find better ways to prevent and treat disease.
- Nearly half of the Hispanics polled rate a physician’s recommendation to participate in a clinical trial as very important.
Stagnant funding could threaten progress in eye research
America’s minority populations are united in the view that not only is eye and vision research very important and needs to be a national priority, but many feel that current federal funding ($2.10 per person, per year) is not enough and should be increased. This may stem from the evidence that most minority populations recognize to some degree that individuals have different risks of eye disease depending on their ethnic heritage.
And while these Americans rate losing their eyesight as having the greatest impact on their daily life and having a significant impact on their independence, productivity and overall quality of life, 50 percent of Americans who suffer from an eye-related disease are not aware of it.
These statics and more were the topic of discussion at a press event in Washington, D.C., today, where members of the media and leaders in the eye and vision research community gathered to interact with a panel of experts and weigh in on the topic of The Public’s Attitudes about the Health and Economic Impact of Vision Loss and Eye Disease. Continue reading →
Excerpt of a joint op-ed by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley and Susan G. Komen President and CEO Judith A. Salerno published in The Huffington Post.
February 23, 1954, was a milestone in the history of American medical research. That day, children at Arsenal Elementary School in Pittsburgh lined up to receive injections of a promising vaccine. Within months, schoolchildren all over the country were doing the same, and polio was on its way to being eradicated in the United States. The disease, which had killed and paralyzed children and adults alike, would no longer be a threat.
This remarkable achievement would not have been possible without the work of Dr. Jonas Salk and his team at the University of Pittsburgh, and — equally significant — grant support from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, now known as March of Dimes. Policymakers played a role, too, when the Polio Vaccine Assistance Act of 1955 made possible federal grants to the states for purchase of the vaccine and for the costs of planning and conducting vaccination programs.
A generation or two later, millions of individuals worldwide benefited from another major medical breakthrough. Remember when being diagnosed as HIV-positive was an automatic death sentence in the 1980s? Accelerated research supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in partnership with Burroughs Wellcome and Duke University, resulted in the development of AZT, the first drug that slowed the replication of HIV. By 1987, the drug won FDA approval and marked the first major treatment in extending the lives of HIV/AIDS patients. Continue reading →
Op-ed by Research!America Chair The Hon. John E. Porter published in The Huffington Post.
Why has science become a take-it-or-leave-it proposition for many Americans? Given all that has been accomplished thanks to our nation’s investment in medical research, the value proposition should be ingrained in the public consciousness — reductions in deaths from heart disease and stroke, the eradication of polio in industrialized nations, transformation of HIV/AIDS from a death sentence to a manageable chronic illness, a sense of justifiable optimism instead of despair when a child receives a cancer diagnosis. So much more is within reach if we summon the public and political will to end Alzheimer’s, prevent diabetes, put more cancers in the history books, effectively address mental illness, provide new medical technologies for our wounded warriors. The list goes on.
What will it take to raise awareness and build a greater appreciation of science among Americans and policymakers? Scientists themselves are the most trusted messengers for research, according to polling commissioned by Research!America, yet they are largely invisible to the public. A majority of Americans cannot name a living scientist and many do not know where research is conducted in the U.S. This underlying knowledge gap has led some to question the value of taxpayer-funded research. “If I can’t see it, it must not exist” has worked against research as anti-government sentiments combined with deficit-reduction imperatives drive decision-making on Capitol Hill. This attitude has led to a dearth in federal R&D investments, policies that hinder private sector innovation, challenges in combating global health threats and unreasonable attacks on behavioral and social sciences research. Federal support for medical and health research has also waned as many elected officials seek to diminish government’s role in accelerating medical progress on the mistaken assumption that the private sector and other entities will bear that responsibility.
Sequestration, the automatic spending cuts that stalled important research across the country, and years of flat-funding as homeland defense swept other priorities aside, have shifted the balance with federal funding for research on a downward trajectory. In reality, the public and private sector work hand-in-hand, relying on the discoveries derived from basic scientific research to develop the next blockbuster drug or medical device that could relieve the suffering of millions of patients; one cannot thrive without the other.
It’s time to recognize how different our lives would be without federally-funded research. Many scientific discoveries supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies that we take for granted have improved our quality of life and protected us from major health threats. Why would we slow down the march of progress? Scientists can play a major role in ensuring that the American public connects the dots of the research pipeline by describing the importance of research in bringing new therapies and cures to market and reducing inefficiencies in our healthcare system.
Speaking at town hall meetings, at the local chamber of commerce or addressing students are some of the ways scientists can engage with the public and elected officials. Volunteering as a science advisor for candidates running for local or national office will help to enlighten and cultivate individuals who can potentially become champions for science in government. Only then can we expect Americans to rally for science and reject attempts by policymakers and others to undervalue research as a major contributor to our nation’s health, national defense and economic stability.
Also read op-ed by Research!America Board member and American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown on the importance of medical research, here.
The University of Colorado’s Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Biology just announced a potentially game-changing discovery in stem cell research for blood cancers and a whole host of other diseases.
Yosef Refaeli and his research team have found a way to expand blood stem cells. This is big news because blood stem cells can help treat blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma as well as inborn immunodeficiency diseases such as sickle-cell anemia and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis. But up until now, treatment using blood stem cells has been limited by the number of cells a patient can produce. Hundreds of thousands of Americans could be affected by this discovery.
The research was supported in part by funding from the National Institutes of Health.
The goal now is to move the technology from the lab into clinical trials. Colorado-based biotech company Taiga Biotechnologies is in the process of setting up the trials.
The research was originally published in the academic journal PLOS ONE. Read the paper here.
By Robert Gracy, PhD, CEO of Texas Biomedical Research Institute
Now in its eighth decade of existence, the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, has a mission “to improve the health of our global community through innovative biomedical research.” Texas Biomed has a breadth and depth of scientific inquiry coupled with an unparalleled collection of research resources, which in combination provides its researchers unique capabilities. Texas Biomed also views partnering with Research!America – a strong advocate for growing our country’s investment in biomedical funding – as retaining an effective ally in maintaining and eventually strengthening the backbone of our country’s preeminent position in the biomedical research field.
In the Department of Genetics, researchers are examining the genes related to complex diseases such as cardiovascular illness, diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, macular degeneration, behavioral and psychiatric disorders, arthritis and osteoporosis – hoping to ultimately provide the foundation of knowledge that can lead to better treatment of these devastating illnesses and to personalize care according to the genetic profile of each patient. Continue reading →
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent more than 50 disease detectives and other highly trained experts to West Africa to battle Ebola. While here in the U.S., more than 350 CDC staff are working on logistics, communications, analytics, management and other functions to support the response 24/7 at CDC’s Emergency Operations Center.“We are fulfilling our promise to the people of West Africa, Americans, and the world, that CDC would quickly ramp up its efforts to help bring the worst Ebola outbreak in history under control,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “We know how to stop Ebola. It won’t be easy or fast, but working together with our U.S. and international partners and country leadership, together we are doing it.” Read more here.
Meanwhile, researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) are studying Ebola and seeking better ways to diagnose and treat the disease. In 2013, the NIAID reported spending $42.49 million on Ebola research. Public-private partnerships are critical to containing and preventing such deadly outbreaks. The NIAID is collaborating with Okairos, a biotech company, to develop Ebola vaccines. The NIH is working with the drugmaker Mapp Biopharmaceutical to scale up production of its Ebola drug Zmapp and partnering with BioCryst to advance the company’s experimental treatments.
Sustained and robust federal funding is needed to respond to global health threats, and to support the development of vaccines to combat Ebola and other deadly diseases. Policymakers must assign a higher priority to medical research to ensure the health and wellness of Americans.
Click here to urge your representatives to support increased funding for federal health agencies in FY15.