Monthly Archives: June, 2013

U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin Stepping Down in July

    left to right: Mary Woolley, president and CEO, Research!America; Jack T. Watters, MD, Research!America Board member and VP for External Medical Affairs, Pfizer Inc.; and U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD, at Research!America’s 2012 Advocacy Awards Dinner

left to right: Mary Woolley, president and CEO, Research!America; Jack T. Watters, MD, Research!America Board member and VP for External Medical Affairs, Pfizer Inc.; and U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD, at Research!America’s 2012 Advocacy Awards Dinner

Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD, recently announced her resignation as the nation’s top doctor after four years in the post.

Dr. Benjamin, the 18th surgeon general, has been an active advocate for public health with a special interest in disease prevention, smoking cessation and healthy lifestyles.

“She has been a remarkable advocate in promoting the value of prevention as a national health priority. She forged the way as leader of the National Prevention Council, created under the Affordable Care Act, to help transform our nation’s health system from one that focuses on treating disease to one that focuses on prevention and staying well,” said Research!America Board member and American Public Health Association Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD, in a press release.

Deputy Surgeon General Boris Lushniak, MD, MPH, will serve as acting Surgeon General in July while a permanent replacement is sought.


A Tiny Hospital’s Promising Research

A lab-turned-hospital for mice in Boston is helping researchers understand cancer in humans.

Jessica Rinaldi for The New York Times

Jessica Rinaldi for The New York Times

Maybe this sounds like the opening line to one of those wasteful-spending reports, but it’s not. And the results — while still a long way from producing a treatment — have allowed researchers to gain insight into the links between cancer and a handful of mutated genes.

New York Times reporter Gina Kolkata describes the “hospital” at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: imaging devices writ small with a dedicated pharmacy and clinical lab. She follows researchers that are looking into prostate cancer.

Mice are injected with a few rogue genes, and researchers monitor any tumors that develop. Initial treatment is similar to what humans in the same situation could expect; even the expected complications are the same. As in humans, the standard treatment works for only so long before the tumors begin resisting. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: What’s wrong with this picture?

Dear Research Advocate:

According to our new national public opinion poll on clinical trials and related topics, most Americans are willing to share their personal health data to advance research, and 72% would be willing to participate in a clinical trial if recommended by their doctor. This complements what we know from other polling, i.e. that Americans want research to proceed at a pace of scientific opportunity. Yet we continue to lose ground in the gridlocked political environment, which, by its inaction, is dashing the hopes of patients and families anxious for new therapies and cures. What’s wrong with this picture?

It isn’t as though research hasn’t yielded both societal and economic benefits! United for Medical Research (UMR) and Battelle Technology Partnership Practice have released a report on the economic and transformative impact of the Human Genome Project, timed as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of its completion. This visionary project has resulted in wildly successful public-private partnerships, more than 4.3 million job-years of supported employment, and nearly $1 trillion in total economic impact since 1988.

The goals of the BRAIN Initiative have been compared to those of the Human Genome Project. Breakthroughs are so desperately needed to overcome Alzheimer’s and a plethora of other serious illnesses. In a recent Bloomberg View article, columnist Al Hunt points out the folly of starving research while we are faced with such major health challenges. Continue reading →

Hill Briefing on U.S. Role in Combating NTDs

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a group of 17 bacterial and parasitic infections that affect more than 1.4 billion people worldwide. NTDs are both infectious and chronic and disproportionately affect people in poverty. The U.S. has played an important role in the fight against NTDs, particularly through the NTD program at USAID. Although the program is extremely successful and has delivered treatments to more than 250 million people worldwide, currently the program only focuses on five of the seventeen NTDs. The remaining twelve are often overlooked, in part because existing tools are simply not sufficient to treat these NTDs.

To discuss these issues and more, please join us on Monday, June 17, for a Hill briefing, “The Role of the U.S. Government and the Case for Scaling Up Treatment and Accelerating Innovation for the World’s Most Neglected Patients.” Panelists will discuss methods for scaling up treatment for all NTDs in addition to exploring remaining research gaps that must be addressed. Overall, the event will highlight opportunities for future U.S. involvement in the fight against these deadly diseases, including the need for research investment to develop new tools and help the world’s most neglected patients.

The event is sponsored by Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Karen Bass (D-CA) and hosted in partnership with Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC), The American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, and Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières.

Kaitlin Christenson of GHTC will serve as the event’s moderator. Other speakers include DNDi’s Rachel Cohen; Brian D’Cruz, MD, of Doctors Without Borders; and Laurence Buxbaum, MD, PhD, of the Philadelphia Research and Educational Foundation.

The program will run from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Room 268 of the Capitol Visitor Center. To RSVP, please email Gwen Rathbun at

New National Public Opinion Poll Shows Majority of Americans Would Participate in Clinical Trials if Recommended by Their Doctor

Only Small Percentage say Health Care Professionals Have Ever Talked to Them about Medical Research

ALEXANDRIA, Va.-June 12, 2013 – More than two-thirds (72%) of Americans say it’s likely they would participate in a clinical trial if recommended by their doctor, but only 22% say a doctor or other health care professional has ever talked to them about medical research, according to a new national public opinion poll commissioned by Research!America. A wide majority (80%) say they have heard of a clinical trial – more than half (53%) through the Internet and only 24% from a doctor or other health care provider.

Only 16% of those polled say they or someone in their family have ever participated in clinical trials. Respondents believe individuals don’t participate because of a lack of awareness (53%), a lack of trust (53%), concerns that it’s too risky (51%), adverse health outcomes (44%), little or no monetary compensation (35%), privacy concerns (27%), and worries that it takes too much time (27%).

The findings point to the important role of health care providers in talking to their patients about clinical trials. “It is critical for providers and health systems in the U.S. to recognize the importance of generating knowledge about which treatments are best through participation in clinical trials,” said Robert Califf, MD, vice chancellor of clinical and translational research at Duke University Medical Center and board chair of the Clinical Research Forum, a co-sponsor of the poll. “Advances in common diseases like Alzheimer’s and diabetes, as well as rare diseases, depend on physicians and other members of the health care team offering their patients a chance to participate in clinical trials.” Continue reading →

Canada’s Research Funding Also Facing Cut Backs

Alan I. Leshner, PhD

Alan I. Leshner, PhD

In a recent op-ed published in the Toronto Star Dr. Alan Leshner, Research!America board member, writes that federal deficits in the United States and Canada “pose a significant threat” to basic research.

He notes that “some policy-makers seem to value near-term, industry-focused science more highly.” But adds that basic science has larger potential payoffs than applied research. “The most well-known example of life-changing basic research is of course Sir Alexander Fleming’s accidental 1928 discovery of a mould (penicillin) that seemed to repel bacteria. German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen’s 19th century efforts to pass cathode rays through glass now allows doctors to see inside the human body without surgery, using X-rays. More recently, a $250,000 study on “the sex life of the screwworm” — a title that prompted the late U.S. senator William Proxmire to mock efforts to better understand a lethal livestock pest — has so far saved the U.S. cattle industry more than $20 billion.” Continue reading →

On the role of scientists in advocacy: what interning at Research!America has taught me

By Megan Kane, PhD

Megan Kane

Megan Kane

As reported on Research!America’s blog and in numerous media channels, scientists are facing a difficult funding environment made even worse by sequestration. I am one of the members of the “entire generation of scientists at risk” that NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins and others have referenced in their warnings about the long-term harm of sequestration. Due to tightening budgets in research laboratories, I was forced to make a decision earlier this year: either delay my graduation from my doctoral program or look for immediate employment outside of a lab environment and possibly never get back to the bench.

A colleague pointed me to the advertisement for a communications internship with a non-profit: Research!America. I was in the midst of pondering alternative careers with my science background and was leaning towards science writing or communication. This communications internship seemed to be a tremendous opportunity to write about science and issues relevant to researchers and advocates in a non-technical format. And it has been an incredible experience. Continue reading →

Alzheimer Research Cuts Show Folly of Sequestration

This post is an excerpt of a Bloomberg column by Albert R. Hunt  on how sequestration hurts medical research, especially in the fight to better understand—and hopefully cure— Alzheimer’s disease.


Albert R. Hunt

Many Republicans, and Democrats, never thought the automatic across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration would take effect. After all, they might produce dangerous, if unintended, consequences such as potentially bankrupting the U.S. health-care system, along with millions of families.

Typical Washington hyperbole, right? It actually is happening under sequestration, which kicked in three months ago, a product of America’s political dysfunction.

Because the cuts only affect the margins of a wide array of defense and domestic discretionary programs, there mostly hasn’t been an immediate pinch; the public backlash has been minimal. The long-term consequences, in more than a few cases, are ominous. Continue reading →

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Safeguards Americans from Public Health Threats

Tell Congress to Champion it, not Chop it.

With sequestration now in effect, across-the-board cuts have eliminated vital funding from the CDC’s budget. And even before sequestration, CDC has weathered several years of arbitrary budget cuts. This underfunding is crippling CDC’s ability to protect Americans from deadly pandemics, bioterrorisim, drug-resistant strains of infections, and other major public health threats. A recent Gallup poll indicates that many Americans understand the critical role CDC plays … but policy makers aren’t getting the message. Help set things straight by sending a message to your representatives about the importance of CDC. And remember to get the word out on Facebook and everyone in your network. We need to turn up the volume, with as many Americans as possible pushing for public health readiness and medical progress — for the sake of the health and safety of all Americans, today and tomorrow.

Take action now.

Call for Entries: International Mental Health Research Organization Brainstorm Essay Contest

The International Mental Health Research Organization is inviting you to submit essays about neuropsychiatric research and national mental health policy for their 2013 Brainstorm Contest. The best essay will snag the author two tickets to the IMHRO’s Music Festival for Mental Health. These tickets get you entry to the scientific symposium, reception, concert and dinner at the Staglin Family Vineyard on September 7, 2013. Continue reading →

Member spotlight: UAW Local 5810: The Union For Postdocs at the University of California

By Neal Sweeney, PhD, President. Sweeney is a postdoctoral scholar at UC Santa Cruz studying stem cell therapies for eye disease. Neal Sweeny, PhD

Chartered in 2008, UAW Local 5810 represents over 6,000 postdoctoral scholars at the University of California, or approximately one tenth of all postdocs nationwide. Our members work at the cutting edge of the most sophisticated research in the world in a wide variety of health-related fields and beyond, and their contributions and discoveries move society forward in important ways.

UAW 5810

The contract that our union negotiated with the University of California in 2010 includes a minimum salary scale that matches the NIH/NRSA scale, a stable and comprehensive benefits plan, more job security, and the right to career development resources. With the increases we’ve won in paid time off, female postdocs no longer have to face uncertain maternity leave. And when work-related issues arise, there is an impartial process for resolving them. When postdocs have an equal say in determining our working conditions, our quality of life improves, which in turn improves the quality of research. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Additions to the Sequestration Files

Dear Research Advocate:

On Wednesday, the House Appropriations agriculture subcommittee approved the funding bill that includes the Food and Drug Administration. The bill allocates nearly $100 million above the post-sequester levels. Unfortunately, the baseline budgets in the House are so low that this increase is still lower than FY12 FDA funding. We must not fall into the trap of lowering our expectations and applauding an artificial victory. The true mark of success is funding that keeps up with need. We must keep working.

As demonstrated particularly by the 18.6% cut targeted for the House LHHS appropriations FY14 budget, the pressure to shrink government by slashing discretionary spending shows no sign of abating. This pressure continues despite the damage nationwide in furloughs, layoffs, shuttered labs, patients turned away from clinical trials, and uncertainty around the ability of federal agencies to accomplish the basic government functions that help sustain an advanced society.

Speaking of mounting evidence against consequence-blind budget cuts, the lab that quickly identified the ricin toxin in letters sent recently to elected officials is CDC-funded. The Spokane (WA) Regional Health District Bioterrorism Lab is threatened with closure due to budget cuts (read more in the Homeland Security News Wire report). Of course it’s not only ricin-laced letters that must be stopped in their tracks. For example: The president has declared an emerging respiratory infection from the Middle East (known as MERS-CoV) a “potential public health emergency.” How can we expect the CDC to be effective in identifying, preventing and combating this or other global threats without the resources needed to do its job? Continue reading →

June is Men’s Health Month

Men’s Health Month increases the awareness of preventable health problems and encourages early detection and treatment of disease among males. According to, this is a time for health care providers, policy makers, the media, and individuals to encourage men to seek regular medical advice and early treatment for disease and injury. Continue reading →

Announcing Research!America’s Inaugural Advocacy Academy

Research!America is pleased to announce an exciting new program to introduce and engage early-career scientists in research advocacy and science policy. The 2013 Research!America Advocacy Academy is a unique opportunity for postdoctoral fellows in the health and biomedical sciences to learn about how to best incorporate advocacy and effective communications into their role as a scientist.

The 2013 class of up to 12 Research!America advocates will participate in a two-day Washington, DC, program from September 11-12, 2013. Participants will learn about the federal budget and appropriations process, tools for effective science communication and outreach as well as how to engage with elected representatives on scientific and research issues. The program includes visiting Capitol Hill to meet with policy makers and congressional staff members, providing participants with a first-hand experience advocating for health research. Rounding out this unique Washington experience, participants will attend Research!America’s National Health Research Forum where top leaders in government, industry, academia and patient organizations engage in moderated conversations on issues of importance to the research ecosystem. Continue reading →

Sustaining the investment in America’s Health

By John D. McConnell and Edward Abraham

John D. McConnell, MD

Edward Abraham, MD

Every day, physicians and scientists at the nation’s medical schools and teaching hospitals see the hope that medical research brings to patients treated at their institutions. However, the Appropriations Committee in the U.S. House of Representative has proposed a budget that would result in a devastating cut of nearly 20 percent to NIH funding and the eventual loss of jobs in Winston-Salem and North Carolina.

Today, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Wake Forest School of Medicine and Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, along with our colleagues across the country, demand that this ill-considered proposal that will have long-term effects on the health of Americans and of the U.S. economy be stopped.

For nearly 70 years, research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has given us greater understanding of the causes of disease, increased life expectancy and improved the health and well-being of all Americans. In recent years, NIH-funded advances have led to a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer and a test to predict breast cancer recurrence, helped identify genetic markers for mental illness, improved asthma treatments, and nearly eliminated HIV transmissions between mother and child. NIH-funded research also has led to a 60 percent decline in deaths from heart disease and a 70 percent decrease in deaths from stroke. These and other medical advances have saved hundreds of thousands of lives, while new prevention methods and treatments have saved countless more.

Despite these important medical advances, recent federal budget cuts that are part of sequestration slashed the NIH’s budget by $1.7 billion in the first year alone. And now the House’s budget allocation proposes to slash funding by three times that amount, turning back the clock on our nation’s medical research efforts to the 1990s.

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the nation’s medical schools and teaching hospitals urge Congress and the administration to work together to craft a bipartisan balanced deficit reduction plan that replaces the sequester cuts and preserves the life-saving research funded by the National Institutes of Health. The nation’s patients are depending on it and so are the patients, employees and citizens of Western North Carolina.

Dr. John D. McConnell is CEO of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Dr. Edward Abraham is dean of Wake Forest School of Medicine.  Wake Forest University School of Medicine is a member of Research!America.  This post is an excerpt of an editorial article published in the Winston-Salem Journal. Read the full article here