Category Archives: Research!America

Research!America To Honor Leaders in Medical and Health Research Advocacy

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.” Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Time to be honest with ourselves

Dear Research Advocate:

This week’s CDC announcement of the worst-case Ebola scenario is staggering. Saying, “Let’s be honest with ourselves …” President Obama addressed the UN this morning on the escalating threat posed by Ebola, urging world leaders to work together to address this truly global crisis. The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) program, which received additional funding for Ebola drug development as part of the recently passed continuing resolution (CR), is a terrific example of how the public and private sectors can work together to develop drugs for national and global health threats like Ebola. BARDA provides market incentives so that private sector innovators can work on noncommercial emergencies. It’s a cost-effective strategy since it precludes the need for government to build drug development capacity the private sector already has, and it’s a good reminder that medical and health research is not about government funding, academic research, or private sector R&D. It’s about all of these things and all of us, working together to save lives.

Let’s be honest with ourselves about something else: policies that cripple private sector investment in research are stifling science.  One such policy involves the research and development (R&D) tax credit, which – despite historical bipartisan support – expired at the end of 2013 and has not been reinstated. Businesses of all sizes across a wide swath of scientific sectors rely on predictable, annual extensions of this tax credit (not that annual extensions are ideal; Congress would also be wise to finally make this credit permanent). Please consider sending a message to your representatives about the importance of reinstating and enhancing the R&D tax credit. Here are two good resources, one nationwide quantitative analysis from the National Association of Manufacturers and one qualitative account of the effects on businesses in Pennsylvania. Members of Congress must work together and quickly upon their return to Washington after the election to not only reinstate the R&D tax credit, but to enhance its reach and effectiveness. And they must pass an appropriations package that recommits to scientific innovation. Note I use the word “must,” not “should.”  When one assumes the role of leader, displaying leadership should not be an option.

And let’s be honest that we are under-investing in our federal research agencies. Determined to alter this state of affairs, Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY-26), along with Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03), recently introduced the Accelerating Biomedical Research Act in the House. The congressman is using some of his district work period/campaigning season to tour institutions that receive NIH funding in his district. If only more incumbents and challengers followed his example!  Rather than despairing that there aren’t more like Mr. Higgins, now is the time to work toward the day that there will be! Candidates who hear voters like you speak passionately now about the importance of advancing medical progress are more likely to become champions for research when they enter Congress next January. Personal stories about why research matters in your life and in your community make for some of the most persuasive advocacy tools.

Let’s be honest that along with personal stories, data truly is important (my advice: tell your story first, after that, add data). Consider the new easy-to-use district-level federal research funding fact sheets from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). These local, by-the-numbers summaries provide information about the number of grants received in nearly 400 congressional districts from the NIH, NSF, DOE Office of Science, and Agriculture and Food Research Initiative in the Department of Agriculture and are useful additions when making your case for research.  We urge you to share this data as well as your commitment to voter education with five of your friends and family!  Join us in the “5 this Fall” campaign on social media.

Final note of honesty about social media … it works! Think “Ice Bucket Challenge” and think about the new ACT for NIH campaign, which is using “selfies” as a way to remind voters and policymakers that research is for everyone, leading to better lives for ourselves, our friends and our loved ones. Reaching an ever-expanding audience via social media is critical. I hope you’ll join Act for NIH by sharing a selfie on social media with the hashtag #ACT4NIH.

Mary Woolley

Member spotlight: Texas Biomedical Research Institute

By Robert Gracy, PhD, CEO of Texas Biomedical Research Institute

Dr  Gracy PicNow 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 →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Deep thoughts occasioned by ice buckets

Dear Research Advocate: 
 
You have by now heard about the ALS “ice bucket” challenge (show support for ALS research by dumping a bucket of ice water over your head and/or writing a check for $100 to the ALS Association, then challenge three others to do the same.)  Whether viewed as a welcome late-summer distraction from imponderables like conflict in the Middle East, on-going clashes in Ferguson, Mo., or the mounting death toll from Ebola, or, rather, as the emergence of a new kind of advocacy similar to what produced the walks, runs and bike-rides for research that are ubiquitous today, the “ice bucket challenge” is worthy of attention.

I think that public attention to the “ice bucket” challenge is not only good for ALS research (and all the patients and their families who cope with this devastating illness), but is an opportunity to engage a newly-interested sector of the public, including all those members of Congress who have accepted the challenge. Think about those freely written $100 checks and consider that the NIH budget buys only about $100 worth of medical research per American, per year, on all diseases as well as vital basic research.  Add to that other federal agencies’ budgets, the private sectors’ expenditures (industry, academia, philanthropy, patient groups) and we can maybe triple that amount (generously computed, and including development along with research). Is that enough to assure better health and prosperity for our nation? I’d say not even close.  Not when brilliant young people are discouraged to the point of leaving the country if they want to work in science;  not when other nations are poised to take over U.S. leadership in R&D; not when we are looking at ALS heartbreak and huge federal debt associated with the costs of Alzheimer’s, as just two crises we should be focused on intently, with all the resources we can bring to bear.  Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Can we put a dent in the costly toll of suicide?

Dear Research Advocate: 
 
The loss of American Icon Robin Williams has riveted national attention on suicide, one of the 10 most common causes of death in the United States. Today, we are releasing our updated fact sheet on suicide that you can use when meeting with lawmakers and educating others about the impact research can have. Efforts to prevent suicide rightly draw on research findings. But progress has been painfully slow, stymied by serious gaps – partly due to severely limited funding – in the basic research base that precedes private sector development, and stymied by the equivalent of handcuffs placed on social science research.

The notion promulgated by some in the Congress that social sciences research doesn’t add enough value to merit federal funding is not just unfounded, it’s holding us back. Social sciences research saves lives. Case in point: behavioral research guided the development of a suicide intervention that was pilot tested in schools in Georgia and Connecticut and resulted in a 40% reduction in attempted suicides. It has since been implemented in schools across the country. This is just one example of social sciences research at work.

Research moves faster when patient advocates engage. This is the history of the nation’s commitment to defeating polio, to ramping up HIV/AIDS research, to prioritizing breast cancer research and women’s health research overall. Writing in the New Yorker last month, Seth Mnookin described the impact that “dedicated … well-informed families” can have in pushing progress. In his responsive letter to the editor, Peter L. Saltonstall, CEO of the National Organization for Rare Disorders, focused on the use of social media by patient groups to establish global registries, taking full advantage of abilities we didn’t have just a few years ago, and in so doing, saving lives. But there is another message here. The research community must work more closely with patient advocates in order to drive medical innovation. As one of the researchers in the Mnookin article said, “Gone are the days when we could just say, ‘We’re a cloistered community of researchers, and we alone know how to do this.’” Continue reading →

How To Help Accelerate Medical Progress In America

Excerpt of an article published in the Imperial Valley News.

AYCEach year in the United States, nearly 16,000 kids are diagnosed with cancer. And on any given day, as many as 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Beyond its debilitating symptoms, the death rate for Alzheimer’s is on the rise.

But there are steps you can take to protect your family from these potentially devastating medical conditions.

One idea that may come as a surprise to many Americans is to contact your congressional representatives and the candidates for their seats.

That’s the suggestion of a national, nonpartisan, voter education initiative called “Ask Your Candidates!” designed to empower voters to talk to candidates about the future of medical progress in the United States. Congress plays a key role in influencing the future of lifesaving research. Many voters are asking candidates if, once elected, they will vote to increase federal funding for medical research and support policies that spur innovation.

The initiative helps voters engage candidates on social media and through local events, grassroots, advertising and other interactive projects.

Read the full article here.

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Behind the headlines

Dear Research Advocate:

News of the rising death toll from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has captured attention in the U.S. With the arrival of two American patients for treatment in Atlanta earlier this week, we are reminded of our truly global society and the importance of a nimble research ecosystem. Complex global disease threats exemplify the importance of both the public and private sectors in protecting our health.  Why, then, are we not fully funding the NIH, CDC and FDA to ensure the  robust public health infrastructure needed to respond to population-wide threats, to pursue vaccine development and other prevention strategies, and to develop new treatment options for Ebola and a host of other threats?  Why have we not truly empowered industry and public-private partnerships with a regulatory and tax environment worthy of the 21st century?  Readers of these letters don’t need to be persuaded, but can be the persuaders of those who are resisting. Persistent, ill-informed arguments include: we can’t afford more federal support, when in fact we can’t afford the lack of it; our nation’s tax structure need not be competitive with that of peer nations; or industry can act alone.  Our job is to effectively refute them.

Speaking of Africa, the Africa Summit held here in Washington, D.C., earlier this week provided another sort of attention to that continent, which has a swiftly emerging middle class, the youngest population in the world and which, by 2050, will have a population twice the size of China!  Those who are stuck in the “aid” model for assuring that Africa realizes its potential — including its potential as a market — may not realize that there is a crying need for robust science, technology and STEM education as a component of African development if we expect to see self-sustaining economies.  Read more in a pre-Summit op-ed published in last week’s New York Times. Continue reading →

Member Spotlight: University of Southern California School of Social Work

By Marilyn Flynn, dean of USC School of Social Work

FlynnAs one of the nation’s first schools of social work, the USC School of Social Work is widely recognized as a top-tier graduate program that offers rigorous career preparation for academic, policy, and practice leaders and provides an innovative and supportive environment for research on critical social problems.

Researchers at the school are dedicated to exploring the social and behavioral determinants of physical and mental health issues, in addition to translating research findings into real-world strategies to improve the health and well-being of individuals and society. Because medical research is a critical component of this interdisciplinary pursuit, our scientists naturally embrace the mission of Research!America to improve awareness and build public support for research seeking to cure, treat, and prevent physical and mental disorders.

Our Hamovitch Center for Science in the Human Services was the first endowed center for interdisciplinary social work research at any university. A leader in the evidence-based decision-making and practice movement, the center continues to expand with the recruitment of nationally recognized faculty members and newly established research cores and institutes in aging; behavior, health, and society; child development and children’s services; homelessness, housing, and social environment; management, organizations, and policy transformation; military; and serious mental illness. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: No recess for advocates!

Dear Research Advocate:

As I write, most members of Congress are on the way home for August recess. As anticipated, no further action has been taken on the appropriations front – or much else, for that matter. In terms of issues we care about: no movement on tax reform, which means no much-needed enhancement of the research and development tax credit; no repeal of the medical device tax; and no final passage of Fiscal Year 2015 appropriations bills.  In upcoming letters I will talk in more detail about Capitol Hill-focused advocacy strategies through the election and beyond.

In the absence of legislative action, some attention – in a bipartisan manner – is being given to research for health. In previous letters, I’ve talked about an effort spearheaded by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI-06) and Ranking Member Diana Degette (D-CO-01) called the 21st Century Cures Initiative that will remain active over the recess. Public input is being sought as central to this initiative. The truly engaged and whip-smart congressional staff coordinating this initiative have indicated that they would welcome your thoughts at any time. They are particularly interested in the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration and public-private partnerships. If you believe the key to faster medical progress is increased funding, tell them. If you feel that bottlenecks in the clinical trials process are the priority concern, tell them. This is not only an opportunity to seed positive change; it is an opportunity to elevate the priority of medical progress going forward. When you think about it, the volume of comments is nearly as important as their content. Issues with an army behind them get attention. To submit comments, e-mail cures@mail.house.gov. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: A long letter with timely news

Dear Research Advocate:

Today, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) — one of the most effective and dedicated champions of medical and health research ever to serve in public office — introduced major new legislation, the Accelerate Biomedical Research Act.  This visionary legislation would increase the budget caps in order to boost National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding to $46.2 billion by FY 2021, a strategy for restoring NIH purchasing power without cutting into funding for other national priorities. You can view my statement on the legislation here and our thank you letter to the Senator here.  It would be terrific if you would write a letter of support for the legislation and send a message encouraging your Senator to sign on.

There’s more good news to share! The Senate Labor-H bill and accompanying report language were released today.  We are grateful to Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Labor-H Subcommittee Chairman Harkin for helping to conceive of, and agreeing to include, report language to fund a Blue Ribbon Commission on science literacy and public appreciation of science. We’re pleased to have played a role in making this happen but every science advocate deserves credit when federal leaders take a step like this.

In terms of FY15 funding, you may recall that the Senate Labor-H subcommittee proposed NIH be funded at $30.5 billion, a $605.7 million increase, or about a 2% bump over FY14 levels.  The proposed measure also funds CDC at nearly $6 billion, a 3.3% increase from FY14 and funds AHRQ at $373.3 million, a mere .6% increase from FY14.  With the appropriations momentum stalled, rumors are floating around the Hill that the House will soon consider a Continuing Resolution or CR (extending current spending levels) through the election and potentially into December.  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.

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.

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: American values at stake

Dear Research Advocate:

My colleagues at Research!America have shared the role as author of our weekly letter during my recent sabbatical. My thanks to them for providing timely and actionable information to our wide network. As I am “re-entering” the Washington space, I have been struck by (1) the significantly worse condition of the roads — potholes everywhere, and now even sinkholes in DC! I’ve been in several global capitals this spring, including in less-developed countries, and DC doesn’t look good in comparison. Via recent domestic travels, I can attest to the poor condition of our roads nationwide, taking a toll on vehicles and our economy, while eroding public confidence in government. Public goods — like infrastructure, education and science — that we have long nurtured through steady investment cannot continue to be resource-starved without dire consequences. No wonder the American public is angry at Washington! (2) I have come back just in time to witness the appropriations process grind to a halt. The clock is ticking down toward August recess, and appropriators have a new excuse for failure to take action, i.e., the migrant children emergency. There will always be national emergencies. By definition they are unpredictable, and some are more complex than others; it nonetheless cannot be acceptable for Congress to grind to a halt when one occurs. Continue reading →

Member Spotlight: The University of Maryland School of Dentistry

By Mark A. Reynolds, DDS, PhD, MA, dean of the University of Maryland School of Dentistry

Mark ReynoldsThe University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD) is the world’s first dental school, founded in 1840 in Baltimore, Maryland. The school has a distinguished history of graduating exceptional dentists and dental hygienists who advance the oral and overall health of patients in Maryland and around the world.

Researchers at the School of Dentistry are dedicated to discovering and developing new treatments for diseases. Our scientists are leaders in the fields of oncology, pain and neuroscience, and microbial pathogenesis. UMSOD recognizes that training dental scientists is essential to improve the health of future generations. By offering unique mentorship opportunities and dual-degree programs, such as the combined DDS/PhD, the School of Dentistry provides an environment that encourages students to pursue research endeavors. Continue reading →

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 →