Category Archives: National Institutes of Health

Medical Research: It’s about you and me

collage fact sheetResearch!America’s newest fact sheet series highlights the personal stories of medical research and the importance of increasing the NIH budget in FY15. We hope you will share these fact sheets with your representatives or congressional candidates, or take it with you on Hill or in-district visits. No one who reads these stories can doubt the significance of medical progress. A stronger investment in research is needed now more than ever!

Here are their stories:

What new discoveries are we delaying and missing when we slow the pace of medical and health research?

We’ve made progress. But the funding to sustain it is eroding.

New Opportunities in the Changing Landscape of Prevention

Excerpt of article by Derek Yach, MBChB, MPH, The Vitality Institute, The Vitality Group, LLC, New York, New York and Chris Calitz, MPP, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The focus of medical research has historically been on curative medicine, yielding better drugs, medical devices, and clinical procedures. Prevention science—the systematic application of scientific methods to the causes and prevention of diseases in populations—has yet to receive the necessary investment and support required to reduce the growing burden of largely preventable noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).

Human and Economic Burdens of Disease

Recent assessments of the burden of risk and disease found that morbidity and chronic disability account for nearly half of the US health burden.Despite the largest per capita health expenditure of all industrialized nations, the United States has fallen behind peer countries in terms of improvements in population health. Americans reach age 50 with a less favorable cardiovascular risk profile, lung disease is more prevalent and associated with higher mortality, and the death rate from heart disease is the second highest among peer countries. Leading NCD risk factors are unhealthy diets, tobacco smoking, high body mass index, high blood pressure, high fasting plasma glucose levels, physical inactivity, and alcohol use.Many of these risks are amenable to preventive interventions based on behavior change, yet comprehensive action by development sectors across the economy to disseminate evidence-based interventions targeting these modifiable risks is inadequate. Furthermore, knowledge about effective prevention interventions for mental illness and musculoskeletal diseases is limited even as their contribution to chronic disability increases.

Noncommunicable diseases have been cited as major contributors to rising health care costs, which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects will be the primary driver of national debt over the next 4 decades. The greatest increase in health care spending between 2000 and 2011 was attributable to drugs, medical devices, and hospital care, with the cost of treating NCDs estimated to exceed 80% of annual health care expenditure, whereas 3% was spent on public health and disease prevention programs.The National Institutes of Health estimates that 20% of its $30 billion annual budget is allocated to prevention; however, less than 10% is spent on human behavioral interventions that target the major modifiable risk factors.More investment in prevention science could lead to greater health gains at lower cost.

Read the full article here.

Research!America’s response to the Yach and Calitz article in JAMA:

The commentary by Derek Yach and Chris Calitz should be required reading for every federal policy maker.  Preventing disease is the best case scenario, not only for patients, but for taxpayers and the economy.  That’s because reducing the incidence of disease is more than a one-time cost-saving strategy; it actually bends the cost curve and helps individuals lead long, productive lives.  Yet the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which allocates grants to states to reduce the prevalence of NCDs,  has been a perennial target of lawmakers who seek every opportunity to defund it and prevention science as a whole continues to be a low national priority. That’s where advocates come in.  Prevention science is not going to flourish until Washington comprehends the return on investment.  Fighting for prevention science is not just right, it is essential.

Invest in NIH research

Excerpt of an op-ed by Society for Neuroscience Early Career Science Policy Fellow Matthew J. Robson, PhD, published in The Tennessean.

robson0705The United States has historically been a consistent, international force of innovation and advancement in biomedical research. Such research is not possible without federal funding of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services.

Although the NIH supports basic biomedical research aimed at a greater understanding of the causes of disease and the improved health of all Americans, relatively few understand the scope of the accomplishments of this agency.

Research that depends upon NIH funding has contributed to improved treatments for many ailments, including asthma; brought advances in imaging technologies, including MRI; nearly eliminated transmission of HIV between mother and child; and more than halved the incidence of mortality from heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death in America. Additionally, NIH funding was crucial in supporting the Human Genome Project, a project that has transformed the way that basic and clinical biomedical research is conducted. These advances in medicine have saved countless lives across the globe. These medical breakthroughs stem from our country’s persistent and sustained investment in basic biomedical research through NIH funding that is allocated by Congress.

Adequate levels of funding for the NIH are crucial for not only future medical advancements, but also the economic health of the United States. Currently, biomedical research results in over $2 of economic activity for every $1 of taxpayer investment. Biomedical research funding is clearly not a “bridge to nowhere,” as it makes up less than 1 percent of the entire federal budget and represents a true investment with real quantifiable returns. NIH-funded research is responsible for nearly half a million high-quality jobs within the United States, jobs that result in economic prosperity in regions where this research activity occurs, including Tennessee. In Tennessee alone, it is estimated that NIH funding is responsible for employing nearly 11,000 people.

Read the full op-ed here.

Innovative small businesses get boost from NIH, NSF

Federally-funded research projects that have advanced medical innovation will be on full display at the BIO International Convention Innovation Zone June 23 – 26 in San Diego. Among the new technologies, a device to prevent secondary cataract formation developed with a National Institutes of Health SBIR grant awarded to Sharklet Technologies, Inc. Secondary cataract, a serious complication of cataract surgery, occurs in 25% to 50% of patients. This complication requires a follow-up laser treatment which presents an additional risk to patients and adds more than $300 million in medical costs per year in the U.S. The novel device, a micro-patterned membrane designed to be integrated into a next-generation intraocular lens that has added functionality to prevent secondary cataract formation, could have a significant impact on improving patient care and reducing health care costs.

Improving patient care was also the idea behind a device developed by Actuated Medical. Many patients rely on feeding tubes for medication, nutrition or decompression, however those tubes can sometimes become clogged. A solution was needed to reduce risk and discomfort for patients and lower the expense of tube removal and replacement. SBIR grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) helped take Actuated Medical’s feeding tube cleaning device from concept to FDA approval. Actuated Medical received a Phase I grant to investigate the technology and prove the feasibility of the device, and then a Phase II grant to develop the device from concept to verification-and-validation testing. Actuated Medical is also exploring various concepts that can be applied to reducing pain and understanding human hormones through the support of SBIR.

Elsewhere, researchers at P2D Bioscience received an NIH SBIR grant to test their lead compound which is an excellent anti-Alzheimer’s disease drug candidate.The research aims to develop an effective drug that can be taken orally to target the underlying neuroinflammation in Alzheimer’s to modify disease progression and improve cognitive function.

The NIH and NSF require robust and sustained funding to support small businesses that are improving the health of Americans. Even if it brings no immediate benefits, a majority of Americans agree that basic scientific research is necessary and should be supported by the federal government, according to public opinion polling commissioned by Research!America.

Sharklet Technologies, Actuated Medical and P2D Bioscience are among the small businesses exhibiting at the BIO International Conference Innovation Zone #BIO2014. For more information about how the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant program is helping biotech companies across the country, visit: http://www.sbir.gov/

Bold Public-Private Partnership aims to AMP-lify Medical Innovation

Image credit: National Institutes of Health

Image credit: National Institutes of Health

Technological advances have paved the way for researchers to access a wealth of data about the biological cause of disease. Yet translating these discoveries into treatments remains a challenge. Promising drugs often fail in late phase clinical trials, costing time and money, and leaving patients’ lives hanging in the balance. One reason is that the right biological targets were not chosen from the start.

To improve the current model for developing new diagnostics and treatments, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and several biopharmaceutical companies and non-profit organizations formed the Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP), www.nih.gov/amp.  “The good news is that recent dramatic advances in basic research are opening new windows of opportunity for therapeutics…But this challenge is beyond the scope of any one of us and it’s time to work together in new ways to increase our collective odds of success,” NIH Director Francis Collins, MD said in a press release. “We believe this partnership is an important first step and represents the most sweeping effort to date to tackle this vital issue.”  Dr. Collins will be among the distinguished panelists at the “AMP-lifying Innovation” discussion on Wednesday, June 25 at the BIO International Convention in San Diego http://convention.bio.org/  #BIO2014 Continue reading →

Statement by Research!America COO Mike Coburn on Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee Markup of FY15 Bill

The increase for the National Institutes of Health is a step in the right direction to accelerate medical progress but we cannot sustain our nation’s engine of discovery with dollops of fuel; a more robust investment is critical to maintaining our pre-eminence in science and saving lives. Researchers are closer to understanding ways to effectively treat and prevent Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes and other health threats that exact a tremendous financial and emotional toll on patients and their families. Yet federal funding has failed to keep pace with the level of scientific opportunity, and Americans are aware of the disconnect. More than half of those surveyed say elected officials in Washington are not paying enough attention to combating the many deadly diseases that afflict Americans, according to a poll commissioned by Research!America, and most agree that basic scientific research should be supported by the federal government. We applaud the leadership of Subcommittee Chair Tom Harkin in directing additional funds to the NIH. We hope that Congress will boost funding levels to at least $32 billion in FY15 and restore medical research and innovation as a source of hope, prosperity and national pride for all Americans.

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A Weekly Advocacy Message from Research!America: Flat won’t get the job done

Dear Research Advocate:

Today, Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) released the Senate’s 302(b) allocations, which were approved by the Appropriations Committee. As you know from last week, the House 302(b) allocation for the Labor-HHS subcommittee is approximately $1 billion less in fiscal year 2015 than it was in FY 14.The Senate’s allocation for FY 15 is roughly the same as it was in FY 14. The bottom line is that, as expected, we have our work cut out for us to achieve the increases needed for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and our nation’s other health research agencies. Fortunately, Senator Mikulski and other leaders from both sides of the aisle understand the importance of investing in research to drive U.S. innovation.  That doesn’t reduce advocates’ workload, but it makes success more than a longshot.

Earlier this week, both the House and the Senate Appropriations subcommittees on Agriculture considered bills that would fund the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in FY 15. The House version calls for a $23 million increase (less than 1%) while the Senate version provides a $36 million increase. While appropriators deserve credit for finding additional dollars for the FDA given overall FY 15 budget constraints, this agency’s responsibility for protecting the very safety of Americans requires more dollars than this.  Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Research!America: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Dear Research Advocate:

Congress continues to pay particular attention to – and make decisions bearing on – the pace of medical progress. To briefly count the ways:

The Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations subcommittee heard testimony yesterday from agency heads within HHS about the significance of health-related spending, including spending on medical and health research. Read our written testimony here.

Congressman Upton (R-MI-06), the Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (which has jurisdiction over authorizing legislation for NIH, CDC, FDA and AHRQ) and Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO-01), a member of the Committee, launched their 21st Century Cures initiative with a roundtable discussion focused on identifying what actions are necessary to maintain our nation’s place as the world’s innovation leader. While Reps. Upton and DeGette are champions of research who should be commended for working to strengthen U.S. medical innovation, there is always the risk that Congress will veer into micromanagement of NIH, stymie FDA’s efforts to ensure that private sector innovators are rewarded for ensuring the safety and efficacy of their medical advances, or “hold off” on providing the funding needed to accelerate medial progress until  longer-term strategies are in place. Your participation can help make this effort a success, and the initiative has established an email address you can use if you wish to give input: cures@mail.house.gov.

So that’s the good. Continue reading →

Medical Progress NOW Day of Action is tomorrow!

medprRemember that all day tomorrow, Tuesday May 6, is a social media Day of Action in conjunction with the Medical Progress NOW campaign. Join us on Twitter (#medprogressnow) and Facebook as advocates from around the nation ask Congress to focus on what can be done this year to accelerate medical progress, first and foremost by committing to a meaningful increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health in the FY15 appropriations process.  Share personal stories, relevant data and compelling visuals to make the case that insufficient funding costs lives.  Congress has the power to get NIH funding back on track. Help convince them to do it.

And please spread the word and share the link to the Day of Action toolkit with your professional and social networks for more information and sample messages.

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Research!America: Rallying more defenders of science

Dear Research Advocate:

In recognition of his many accomplishments as a champion for research, Research!America Chair and former Congressman John Edward Porter was honored by the National Academy of Sciences with the Public Welfare Medal, the Academy’s most prestigious award. This well-deserved acknowledgment of Porter’s tireless efforts to advance innovation and engage scientists in advocacy should motivate advocates to follow his lead and speak up about threats to our nation’s research ecosystem. Read our statement on the award ceremony here.

In his remarks, Mr. Porter noted that “political judgment should never be allowed to be substituted for scientific judgment.” This point was particularly well-timed as political attacks on science, particularly health services research, continue unabated.

A case study from Louisiana highlights the importance of health research in saving lives. Children’s Hospital in New Orleans had an outbreak of a deadly hospital-acquired infection, mucormycosis in 2008-09. In response to several outbreaks in recent years, the CDC launched new targeted initiatives to help hospitals and health departments share information with the public about hospital-acquired infections.This type of public health work, based on health services research findings, is critical to delivering high quality care, reducing medical errors and protecting patients. Continue reading →

Statement by Research!America Chief Operating Officer Michael Coburn on Public Welfare Medal Recipient John E. Porter

Research!America salutes Board of Directors Chair John Edward Porter, the 2014 recipient of the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the Academy’s most prestigious award to honor the extraordinary use of science for the public good. Porter’s leadership in advocacy for research has strengthened our nation’s global competitiveness in science and technology and advanced medical innovation to new heights.  As chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, Porter demonstrated tremendous foresight, calling on policymakers to support robust investments in research to improve quality of life, combat debilitating and deadly diseases and stimulate private section innovation. With the doubling of the National Institutes of Health budget (FY99 – FY03), Porter helped usher in a new era of improved health and longevity for all Americans. A lifelong public servant, Porter continues to champion biomedical research in the U.S., urging researchers, patients and the public at large to become stronger advocates for science.  As an inspirational force in the scientific community, Porter joins a distinguished group of medal recipients who leave a strong legacy for future generations.

 

Tell Congress We Need Medical Progress NOW!

The price of wasted time is too high

The Fiscal Year 2015 Appropriations process marks a period of crucial decisions on how to fund America’s top priorities, including combating deadly and disabling disease.  The funding allocated to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), coupled with private-sector investment, saves young lives; empowers those with disabilities to maintain productive, fulfilling lives; and is an underappreciated force behind local and national economic growth, our national security and America’s status as a global economic and innovation leader.  Appropriators can act this year to restore NIH to a growth path consistent with the significance of medical progress to Americans and the level of scientific opportunity.

The NIH budget is lower today than it was in 2012.  How have we fallen so far behind?  Is it no longer important to conquer diseases that kill children, to do more for wounded warriors or to stop devastating conditions like Alzheimer’s and cancer?

Congress needs to do something NOW to make up for the massive gap between the funding needed to reignite medical progress and the minimal funding allocated to this priority over the last several years. Will funding for NIH receive a real funding boost in FY15 or will medical progress continue to lose ground?

We need Congress to accelerate medical progress, not in five or ten years, but now.  Tell Congress to treat medical progress like the American priority it is and give it the boost in funding for 2015 that it needs. 2012 is our past; 2015 is our future.  Let’s keep moving.  Medical progress NOW.

Take action now.

 

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Research!America: Are we on the right path to protecting innovation?

Dear Research Advocate:

The budget and appropriations process typically reveals stark differences in funding priorities among the two parties. And this year is no exception. House Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-08) introduced the Democrats’ 10-year budget plan this week, which stands apart from the Republican proposal introduced by Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI-01) most notably by ending sequestration. The Ryan budget, which won House approval today, is on its way to the Senate but is considered dead on arrival. Note that there’s still time to urge your Members of Congress to support medical and health research as this year’s appropriations process continues!

Teen “whiz kids” profiled in the latest issue of People magazine personify the future of science and medical innovation. Among them, Jack Andraka, who at age 15, created an affordable diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer that provides results in five minutes. He faced tremendous obstacles securing funding for his breakthrough innovation, a problem we see all too often in medical and health research. Such ingenuity propels our best and brightest to take risks but the funding to support their revolutionary ideas is not within their grasp.

Discussing these innovative projects with candidates and elected officials is key to elevating science and technology in the national conversation. In Research!America’s newly released poll data summary booklet, America Speaks, Volume 14, two-thirds of Americans (66%) say it’s important for candidates running for office to assign a high priority to funding medical research. Now is the time to ask future and returning Members of Congress if they believe that medical progress is a high national priority as part of our new national voter education initiative Ask Your Candidates!, which was formally launched this week. More details about America Speaks and the campaign can be found here. As the number of lawmakers with a background in science diminishes, it’s more important than ever to engage with your representatives. Michael S. Lubell writes in Roll Call that if we don’t elect a new scientist in the upcoming elections, it will mark a six-year decline from five to two Members of Congress who have a PhD in a natural science.

National Public Health Week, which wraps up tomorrow, provides another opportunity to engage policy makers about the benefits of health research. Don’t miss our recent blog post celebrating public health — an often underappreciated facet of our research ecosystem.

A new video highlighting backstage interviews with our 2014 Advocacy Award Winners illustrates the passion and drive of these extraordinary leaders who have contributed greatly to medical progress. We encourage you to nominate individuals and organizations whose leadership efforts have been notably effective in advancing our nation’s commitment to research for the 2015 Advocacy Awards.

As you’re aware, members of Research!America’s management team will guest-author this letter in Mary’s absence. This week’s author is Research!America’s vice president of communications, Suzanne Ffolkes.

Sincerely,

Suzanne Ffolkes

Few Americans Know Where Elected Officials and Candidates Stand on Government Support for Research and Innovation, New Polling Booklet Reveals

Research!America and partners launch national voter education initiative to elevate the priority of medical progress

ALEXANDRIA, Va.April 8, 2014—Two-thirds of Americans (66%) say it’s important for candidates running for office to assign a high priority to funding medical research, according to America Speaks, Volume 14, a compilation of key questions from public opinion polls commissioned by Research!America. Polling shows that Americans place a high value on U.S. leadership in medical innovation, yet only 12% say they are very well informed about the positions of their senators and representative when it comes to their support of medical and scientific research. www.researchamerica.org/poll_summary.

To help close this knowledge gap, Research!America and partner organizations are launching a national voter education initiative, Ask Your Candidates! Is Medical Research Progress a Priority? Through online and grassroots activities, social media strategies and on-the-ground events, congressional candidates will be urged to share their views on government policies and support for medical innovation conducted in both the public and private sectors. www.askyourcandidates.org.

“Candidates must do a better job articulating their vision for medical progress, clarifying what level of priority they assign to research as a way to assure improved health, well-being and economic security of all Americans,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. “Voters need to know whether their candidates view lifesaving medical research as an imperative or an afterthought.”

During election season, Americans want candidates to talk about medical progress. Nearly three-quarters (74%) say it’s important to know whether their candidates for Congress are supportive of medical and scientific research. Notably, more than half of respondents (53%) do not believe elected officials in Washington are paying enough attention to combating the many deadly diseases that afflict Americans. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Research!America: Talk is cheap; bipartisanship is priceless

Dear Research Advocate:

The doubling of the National Institutes of Health budget between FY99 and FY03 is an example of Congress at its most productive … and it hinged on bipartisanship. A small group of Republicans and Democrats recognized the power of medical progress, and they worked together to increase the budget baseline for NIH by nearly $11.5 billion. Without that doubling, and with the stagnation of virtually all non-defense discretionary funding that followed on its heels, which groundbreaking medical discoveries would still lie dormant? Which of those we hold dear would not be alive today?

Research!America Chair and former Congressman John Porter, who chaired the House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee, was one of a relatively small group of champions on that bipartisan team. On Monday, March 31, the National Institutes of Health held a dedication ceremony for the John Edward Porter Neuroscience Research Center. NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, Senators Tom Harkin and Mark Kirk, renowned researchers and NIH alumni Dr. Gerald Fischbach and Dr. Steven Hyman, and other distinguished leaders paid tribute to Congressman Porter, acknowledging his staunch commitment to bipartisanship and his extraordinary contribution to advancing medical research. As Congressman Porter emphasized during his remarks, the two are not unrelated. The severe partisan divide in Congress has served to perpetuate the stagnation of NIH resources, both by compromising the deliberative process that is meant to inform the prioritization of appropriated dollars and by stymying tax and entitlement reform. Scientists must fight back, buoyed by the high esteem in which they are held by the public and armed with unique insights into the societal benefits of investing in research. View photos of the dedication ceremony here and our statement here. Continue reading →