Monthly Archives: April, 2013

Geoffrey Beene Foundation Alzheimer’s Initiative Offers Prize for Innovation

The Geoffrey Beene Foundation Alzheimer’s Initiative has announced its second online innovation challenge, which seeks to identify differences in early cognitive decline between genders. Winning submissions will share $100,000 in prize awards.

This new initiative — called the 2013 Geoffrey Beene Global NeuroDiscovery Challenge — was announced Monday at the Society for Women’s Health Research Gala in Washington, DC.

“Not unlike cancer, the Geoffrey Beene Foundation’s lead philanthropic cause, most researchers agree that the greatest potential to stop Alzheimer’s lies in the earliest stages of the disease, which is why we fund translational research. Innovative Challenges help to support that mission,” said Tom Hutton, trustee and CEO of the Geoffrey Beene Foundation and president and CEO of Geoffrey Beene, LLC. “We must redefine the solutions process and free the greatest minds of our time to do the work to help save and improve lives.” Continue reading →

You can’t sequester cancer; cutting back on research is a deadly mistake

By Robert Weiner and Patricia Berg, PhD

You can’t sequester cancer. You can only hurt the research to treat and prevent the diseases, and stop the treatments themselves.

That is the message of 18,000 scientists gathered for the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual convention in Washington. A rally for medical research with those thousands of scientists — usually wonky researchers poring over their microscopes — was held on the grounds of the Carnegie Library across from the Washington Convention Center. In rhythm to drumbeats, the scientists became political advocates as they chanted after each speaker, “More progress! More hope! More life!” Continue reading →

Sequestration’s effect on biomedical research highlighted on Marketplace

With so much national attention focused on the impact of sequestration on air travel, one might think there was no other area of the federal budget feeling the pain of these across the board cuts. Today, National Public Radio’s Marketplace shed more light on the less obvious but devastating cuts that are affecting biomedical and health research and the careers of scientists. You can listen to the segment, featuring Research!America’s President and CEO, Mary Woolley, and R!A communications intern Megan Kane, who recently received her PhD in human genetics but has difficulty finding a post-doc position in a lab due to the funding cuts.

Do you have something to contribute to the national conversation about sequestration and biomedical research? There are many ways you can get involved today! Using our online tools, you can contact your representatives and urge them to support more funding for the National Institutes of Health, a major funding agency for biomedical research. Research!America also has resources to help you write a letter to the editor for your local paper to show how important research is to your community.

Coalition for Health Funding visits freshman members of Congress

HillBuildingOn April 24th, representatives from members of the Coalition for Health Funding gathered on Capitol Hill to visit with Members of Congress. As a member of CHF, Research!America participated in these informational visits with offices of freshman Congressmen and Senators. The theme of the day was “health is everywhere,” and advocates sought to communicate the important role of health and research in the lives of Americans and in our economy.

During the meetings, advocates spoke about how adequate funding for agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and others can help address soaring health care costs including Medicaid and Medicare expenses. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: What FAA furloughs mean for science…

Dear Research Advocate,

Media attention to the impact of sequestration-forced furloughs at the FAA, causing airport delays, has put both Congress and the administration on the defensive. Senate Majority Leader Reid has introduced legislation to delay sequestration until a broader deficit reduction solution can be negotiated, and there is a Republican-led effort to prevent the closure of towers and stop the furloughs. It is unclear where these efforts will lead, but there clearly is power in showcasing concrete damage to our citizenry and our economy as a way to illustrate the larger problem: Sequestration isn’t just a delayed flight issue, it is huge, strategic mistake for our nation. More of us must call on Congress to dispense with Band-Aid discussions and negotiate a deficit reduction solution that encompasses tax reform and entitlements and restores crucial discretionary funding to the many government functions that are being senselessly compromised by sequestration. Our imperative is to showcase research as a prime example of a public priority strangled by sequestration and tight caps on discretionary spending. We must work to put damage to medical and health research funding in the headlines and for advocates to be seen and heard on Capitol Hill and around the nation. A diversity of research advocacy organizations are working to initiate joint, in-district advocacy in selected districts during the Memorial Day recess. We urge your participation; the larger the numbers involved, the stronger the impact. Please click here to access an information form you can use to let us know if your organization may be able to participate. You can email the form to edehoney@researchamerica.org. Continue reading →

World Malaria Day

April 25 is World Malaria Day, and this year’s theme is “Invest in the Future: Defeat Malaria.” More than half of the world’s population is at risk for malaria, a potentially fatal disease that is transmitted through mosquitoes. Strong investments in malaria research and programming have helped reduce global malaria mortality rates by 26% since 2000, and 50 countries are on track to reduce malaria cases by 75% by 2015. World Malaria Day is an opportunity to celebrate these successes and raise awareness of the investments that are still needed to fight this life-threatening disease.

Despite the hard-won progress made against malaria, approximately 660,000 people die from this disease every year, and drug-resistant strains are emerging in all corners of the globe. Particularly worrisome is malaria that is resistant to artemisinin, one of today’s most widely used antimalarial drugs. Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, highlighted this issue in a public hearing on drug-resistant infections earlier this week. He cautioned that the continuing spread of artemisinin-resistant malaria would be a significant setback for global control efforts. Freiden also noted that many antimalarial drugs currently in the research pipeline are arteminisin-based, so widespread resistance could render these drugs ineffective before they are even brought to market.

Drug resistance has complicated the battle against malaria, but it by no means has ended that battle. At the World Malaria Day congressional briefing sponsored by the Senate Caucus on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases, panelists discussed several exciting new research initiatives ranging from innovative drug combinations to new diagnostic tools that could help clinicians detect and track drug resistance in malaria patients. A theme throughout was the importance of public-private collaboration, as evidenced by the participation of industry leaders such as Exxon Mobil, NGOs and U.S. government agency officials. Other event highlights included remarks by Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), Sen. John Boozman, OD (R-AR), and Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), who affirmed the bipartisan support for global efforts to combat malaria. Continued U.S. government investment in malaria control efforts, particularly in research to develop new antimalarial tools, is essential if we are to win the global battle to eliminate this life-threatening disease.

—Morgan McCloskey, global health intern

World Immunization Week

April 20-26 is World Immunization Week. Sponsored by the World Health Organization, World Immunization Week is intended to raise awareness and support for one of the world’s most powerful tools for health – vaccines.

Immunization is an extremely successful and cost-effective health intervention, preventing an estimated 2 million to 3 million deaths each year. In addition to saving lives, vaccines save money by avoiding the health care costs and lost productivity that accompany illness. Thanks to the global immunization campaign led by WHO, smallpox was completely eradicated in 1980 – the first disease so classified. Polio, another vaccine-preventable disease, is close to being eradicated. In fact, during an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit, Jos Vandelaer, MD, MPH, director of UNICEF’s Global Immunization Program, said that polio could be eradicated by 2014.

Despite these successes, significant challenges remain. More than 22 million children are still incompletely vaccinated at 12 months of age, in part due to logistical difficulties with storing, maintaining the safe temperature of, and transporting vaccines in low-resource settings. Moving forward, it is critical that governments worldwide adopt strategies to ensure the safety and efficacy of vaccines and support research to improve the global vaccine supply chain. Additionally, vaccines simply do not exist for many diseases, including a majority of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) which affect more than 1.6 billion people worldwide. More research investment is necessary to develop the next generation of vaccines and technology that could have the power to prevent NTDs and other global diseases.

– Morgan McCloskey, global health intern

Neglected Tropical Disease Research in Louisiana: Saving Lives and Creating Jobs

On May 15, Research!America and our partners hosted “Neglected Tropical Disease Research in Louisiana: Saving Lives and Creating Jobs,” at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans. (Read a recap of the event here.)

Research!America produced two short videos in conjunction with the event. The first video is a broad discussion on NTDs and their effect on the Southern U.S. Chagas alone affects 300,000 Americans and has an economic impact of $1 billion, between health care costs and lost productivity.

To demonstrate what it’s like to live with Chagas, the second video is the personal story of Maira Gutierrez. She was originally diagnosed with Chagas while giving blood, but her primary care doctor was unaware how to treat it. Gutierrez believes more research and more awareness is needed to combat Chagas and other neglected tropical diseases.

The “arms race” in the war on cancer adds new weapon to the arsenal: personal genome sequencing

Large medical centers across the U.S. are investing in a burgeoning area of healthcare for their cancer patients: “precision medicine.” Substantial investments are being made to not only build new laboratory facilities and purchase research equipment, but also to staff these new facilities. Universities like Weill Cornell Medical College, Harvard Medical School, and Johns Hopkins University are joining clinical centers like Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in building an infrastructure for personalized medicine with the hope of playing a bigger role in the development of new drugs. Continue reading →

Nationwide, investments in science and technology drive economic recovery

The 2012 State Technology and Science Index from the Milken Institute provides a state-by-state breakdown of technology and science capabilities and how well states have converted those assets into companies and high-paying jobs. Where does your state rank? Massachusetts ranked number one for the past 5 indices—released every two years—topped by an all-time high score in 2012. Analysts point to a large number of top-tier universities with research programs and cutting-edge science and tech firms as major contributors in Massachusetts. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Champions at work, advocates at the ready

Dear Research Advocate,

Senators Casey (D-PA) and Burr (R-NC), recently honored with our Whitehead Award for Research Advocacy, have joined forces again with a bipartisan letter calling for a strong commitment to NIH funding in FY 14. Please take a moment now to urge your senators to sign on to this letter. And say thank you to Senators Burr and Casey for being champions for research!

In past letters, I’ve written about attempts by Congress to micromanage and in some cases, attack critical components of our nation’s research portfolio. The social sciences have been targeted time and time again despite the immense value of these programs and the return on investment they represent. In response, the NSF has released a report, “How Social, Behavioral, and Economic Research Addresses National Challenges.” It will prove useful in your advocacy for these important avenues of research. Next week, COSSA invites you to a briefing on the role social sciences play in improving our response to national disasters – a topic that seems more relevant than ever in light of recent events.

Meanwhile, there has been yet another blow to our nation’s public health capacity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has recently been in the news as a first responder to the emergence in China of a human strain of a potentially deadly flu previously found only in animals, reportedly received another fiscal year 2013 funding cut. This $374 million cut, the result of a decision by the Administration to execute a shift in funding away from the Prevention and Public Health Fund, is just the most recent of a series of devastating budget cuts to CDC, an agency with a broad and important mission held back by a tiny budget. The nation at large won’t notice the diminution of CDC until the next public health disaster strikes home; and by then, it could be too late. For more information and suggestions for advocacy, contact the Campaign for Public Health Foundation. Continue reading →

Synthetic biology research leads to new source for malaria drug

An endeavor twelve years in the making, University of California, Berkeley researchers are celebrating a breakthrough in synthetic biology and malaria treatment. A research team led by chemical engineer Jay Keasling began with a straightforward—though not easy—goal of genetically reprogramming a simple single celled organism, yeast, so that it would produce a chemical compound normally only found in the sweet wormwood plant. This compound is the starting material for one of the most effective anti-malaria medications available on the market. Yet, because the compound was derived from a plant that grows in select areas around the world, the availability and price were inconsistent. Continue reading →

Lab-grown kidneys closer to reality thanks to NIH funded research

A team of researchers from Research!America members Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital recently announced a major step forward in regenerative medicine: a working kidney has been grown in the laboratory. These findings and the hope they bring to thousands of Americans waiting for a kidney transplant would not have been possible without a significant investment in research by the National Institutes of Health, who funded this project. This research also would not have succeeded without the engineering and technology advances that created the specialized equipment that allowed for an entire organ to be grown in an incubator, pointing to a need to continue investing in these areas of research as we reach beyond the limits of our current technologies in biomedical research. Continue reading →

Injuries, Septic Shock, and Inflammation in Men and Mice

Karen Elkins, PhD

Karen Elkins, PhD

By Karen Elkins, PhD, a biomedical scientist and science writer currently working in the field of microbiology and immunology.

How does the physiology of the human body respond to severe injuries and septic shock? Funded by NIH, over 50 researchers have been working on a decade-long set of large projects to analyze human tissues taken directly from seriously ill patients. The goal of this ambitious effort is to understand the body-wide inflammation that accompanies major injuries like trauma with blood loss, major burns, and septic shock from invasive bacterial infections. Continue reading →

Advocacy Action Alert

As we continue to fight sequestration, Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Richard Burr (R-NC) have called for a strong commitment to NIH funding in FY 2014. We must urge our senators to sign-on to the bipartisan Casey-Burr letter right away.

As you know, the stakes for research funding have never been higher. Research is a critical national investment that will save and improve lives while growing our economy. Make sure your senators get the message. Remember to share this alert on Facebook and with everyone in your network. Click here to contact your Senators today!