By Martine Rothblatt, PhD, Chairman and CEO of United Therapeutics Corporation.
Founded in 1996, United Therapeutics Corporation is a biotechnology company focused on the development and commercialization of unique products to address the unmet medical needs of patients with chronic and life-threatening conditions. We have four approved products on the market today and we are not stopping there! From the United States to Europe to the Asia Pacific, we are proud of our multicultural business environment where employees can collaborate with people all over the world. As a group, we are relentless in our pursuit of “medicines for life”® and continue our research into treatments for pulmonary arterial hypertension, cancer, and some of the world’s most complicated viral illnesses.
We are proud to partner with Research!America to promote better medical advancements, biomedical research, and overall greater global health initiatives. We have seen first-hand how tireless research and dedication to a cause can change the lives of thousands of patients and their loved ones. We began our story by conducting extensive research on a treatment for a deadly disease so rare, Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH), that other medical companies had abandoned any pursuits for treatments or a cure. Continue reading →
Statement by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on 21st Century Cures Initiative Discussion Draft
The release of the 21st Century Cures Initiative discussion draft is a major bipartisan accomplishment that represents a truly remarkable diversity of innovative ideas to speed the delivery of lifesaving treatments to patients – a testament to the extraordinary commitment of Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI), Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO) and their respective staff members. The Initiative could be a game changer for the medical innovation ecosystem with provisions touching on virtually all phases of the research and development pipeline – from basic and applied research, to FDA review, to coverage and access. Among the many beneficial provisions Research!America fought for is a measure to reduce the administrative burden on researchers. We look forward to working with the 21st Century Cures team to greatly boost our nation’s commitment to groundbreaking research and drug development.
Guest contributor — HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology
Thirty years ago, in December 1984, Richard Myers, a young postdoctoral scholar at the time, joined 18 other researchers at the Alta ski resort near Salt Lake City, Utah. Unbeknownst to the scientists convened there, this meeting, organized by the Department of Energy and the International Commission for Protection Against Environmental Mutagens and Carcinogens, would lay the foundation for what would soon become an international effort to sequence the entire human genome. The participants had gathered to discuss the repercussions of an event nearly 40 years earlier: was it possible to track radiation-induced mutations in the DNA of the descendants of those exposed to the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? At the height of the cold war, the question was pressing. For how many generations did the echo of such radiation exposure linger?
The answer, unfortunately, was elusive. Technology at the time was too limited to accomplish such a task. But discussions at the small meeting, which came to be known as the Alta Summit, sparked one of the most massive, most successful and most expensive biological research endeavors in history — the Human Genome Project.
Now the director and president of the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Ala., Myers and the other researchers played a pivotal role in the subsequent sequencing effort. Myers co-led one of the first human genome centers in the U.S., and his lab, together with the newly formed Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, Calif., was responsible for sequencing about 11 percent of the genome, including all of chromosomes 5, 16 and 19.
HudsonAlpha is continuing the mission set forth 30 years ago, to improve human lives by applying what we learn from the study of genomics to patient care and to improving our natural resources. In the 30 years since the meeting, researchers have not only learned the entire sequence of the three billion nucleotides that make up the human genome, but they’ve also sequenced thousands of other species. They’ve learned to compare and contrast genome sequences among and within species to trace evolution’s winding path, and they’ve begun to shine a light on what has been called the “dark matter” of human DNA. They’ve compared populations from around the globe to discover ethnic and racial differences critical to the success of personalized medicine, and they’ve learned new ways to improve crop productivity to feed an ever-growing world.
“The HudsonAlpha Institute rests on the foundation established by the Human Genome Project,” said Myers. “A major focus of the institute is to use the subsequent advances in sequencing technology to make a difference in human health and disease, including brain diseases, cancer, autoimmune conditions and heart disease. Last year alone we analyzed more than 2,500 whole human genomes. We collaborate with hundreds of scientists across the globe, and have launched more than 2,000 projects with groups around the world. All this was unthinkable 30 years ago.”
The scale of possibility at HudsonAlpha shows how far the technology has come. The institute recently purchased 10 ultra-high-throughput sequencers from Illumina, Inc. Together, the sequencers can sequence about 18,000 human genomes each year, at a cost of about $1,500 each.
“As always, HudsonAlpha is focused on collaboration and data sharing,” said Myers. “We don’t function as a silo; we spread the information around. We’re also heavily committed to the idea of public and private collaboration. HudsonAlpha presents a unique model of a nonprofit research institute. We actively recruit private companies to share our space, and we now have 27 here with us. There’s a lot of cross pollination that occurs, when our faculty members interact with the company researchers.
“I can’t believe how much faster and easier it’s been in the six years that I’ve been a part of HudsonAlpha. We’re extremely excited at the potential to transform human health and crop biology. We are still growing and working to be on the front of the discovery wave.”
Statement by Research!America president and CEO Mary Woolley on the New Chair of the House Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee
November 20, 2014
Congressman Tom Cole’s leadership on the Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee will help shape our ability to sustain and accelerate medical innovation as we confront health crises here and abroad. As a steward of the federal funding that lays the noncommercial foundation for private sector medical progress, Congressman Cole will play a pivotal role in determining whether our nation conquers Alzheimer’s, childhood cancer, Ebola and other insidious health threats. We commend his efforts to ensure quality health care for veterans, remove barriers to innovation through the repeal of the medical device tax and advance other health and research-related initiatives. We look forward to working with the congressman to strengthen our nation’s research infrastructure for the millions of patients awaiting new therapies and cures.
Statement by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Research!America congratulates this year’s Nobel Prize winners in physiology or medicine, Professor John O’Keefe of the University College London, and May-Britt and Edvard Moser, both of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Their discoveries of cells that provide the basis for how the brain maps surrounding space, allowing us to navigate complex environments, may lead to a better understanding of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, which afflicts 44 million people worldwide. O’Keefe, who as a postdoctoral fellow was supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health, made the first discovery of the brain’s “inner GPS” in 1971. The Mosers continued to develop his research, discovering another key component of the brain’s mapping system which shed more light on our ability to navigate. 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 →
Statement by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on the Accelerate Biomedical Research Act
Research!America applauds Senator Tom Harkin for taking bold, decisive action to heal fissures in our nation’s research pipeline with legislation that will strengthen the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget over the next six years. The Accelerate Biomedical Research Act will establish a pathway for sustained growth in the NIH budget. That budget has remained virtually stagnant over the last decade, jeopardizing promising research to combat disease and deflating the aspirations of early career scientists. NIH-funded research fuels the development of lifesaving therapies and treatments, and creates opportunities for public-private partnerships to better understand Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease and other major health threats here and abroad.
Senator Harkin and other congressional leaders recognize the potential of innovative research, but it is Senator Harkin who is taking the lead at a time when too many elected officials appear to have taken their eyes off the ball with our global leadership in science and technology at risk. China and other countries are aggressively increasing their research and development investments, luring scientists to their shores and challenging our dominance in medical research and innovation. According to polling commissioned by Research!America, a majority of Americans are skeptical that the U.S. will maintain its pre-eminence in science by the year 2020, and many policy experts agree. We urge Congress to support the Accelerate Biomedical Research Act to improve the health of Americans and ensure our global competitiveness.