Category Archives: Your Candidates-Your Health

Reasons for Research: Research!America’s 2012 Annual Report

Now available online, Research!America’s Annual Report, “Reasons for Research,” recounts the progress  made in research advocacy by Research!America and its members representing academia, industry, scientific societies, patient groups and foundations. In addition to highlighting the 2012 Advocacy Awardees and Garfield Economic Impact Awardees, the report details Research!America initiatives such as the ongoing Save Research campaign and the Your Candidates–Your Health national voter education initiative. The annual report also includes polling data, statements from speakers at the National Health Research Forum — including the heads of the federal health agencies — and other Research!America  activities in collaboration with members and partners.

The theme for this year’s report, Reasons for Research, is reflected in a new webpage on Research!America’s website. Here you can read testimonials of patients and young scientists highlighting their reasons for research. Without continued advocacy and support for biomedical and health research, these young scientists may not be able to pursue their passion: investigating cures and treatments for patients like those featured on this webpage.

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A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Week of Advocacy Underway

Dear Research Advocate,

With a stellar team of advocates from across the research community, we have been blitzing Capitol Hill this week with our message that we need cures, not cuts. Research!America and our partners have participated in more than 60 meetings with Members of Congress, including key leadership and their staff. My thanks to the 140+ groups that signed on to our community letter to congressional leadership. Many partners have activated their grassroots to join the call Congress day, and there is still time to join the In-District Drop-In day (today) and a social media push on Friday. We also encourage you to keep up the drumbeat with emails and phone calls to Hill offices. Beltway media have taken notice of our ads and the coordinated activity, with articles appearing in The Hill and National Journal.  

Based on our meetings this week, the message is definitely getting through that across-the-board cuts or more stringent caps on discretionary spending would hurt our nation far more than help it. But it was also clear that continued, outspoken advocacy is crucial. No option is off the table, and that means we must keep making the case. Staffers told us that providing concrete examples to illustrate what’s at stake is crucial, and no community is better equipped to drive the point home than ours. We saw that yesterday, when, for example, leaders of the Society for Neuroscience gave concrete examples of research at risk, and when advocates from the Parkinson’s Action Network who are living with this incredibly challenging illness described what stalled progress means for them. I am certain – 100% certain – that their advocacy influenced influential people.

The need for many more of us to engage was the message in the lead editorial in Science I co-authored with Research!America Board member and CEO of AAAS, Dr. Alan Leshner. In the editorial, we urge scientists not to stand back, but to speak up for research and make it clear to Congress that “No Science = No Growth,” quoting the words of former NSF Director Neal Lane. Research!America Chair The Hon. John Porter penned a letter to the editor expanding on Lane’s recent op-ed in The New York Times, reminding readers that research dollars are distributed based on peer review to every state and nearly every congressional district in the country. He calls on the lame-duck Congress to overcome partisan divides and step up now to prioritize research.

This afternoon, we are holding our post-election forum and award ceremony for the 2012 Garfield Economic Impact Award at AAAS. We’ll hear from Research!America Chair John Porter, Congressman Mfume, Dr. Mark McClellan and Matthew Cooper of the National Journal Daily. We will be reviewing what we learned about areas of common ground in the Congress from responses to our voter education initiative, Your Candidates-Your Health, and discussing advocacy strategies going forward. View full event details here and join us if you are in DC.

I was saddened to learn of the death of former Congressman Joe Early (D-MA). Rep. Early served for nearly 20 years, championing funding for NIH on the Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations subcommittee, and at every other conceivable opportunity. He was an ardent supporter of Research!America in its start-up phase. We extend our sympathies to his family on their, and the nation’s, great loss.

Monday next week is Public Health Thank You Day, our annual salute to the unsung heroes of public health who keep us safe in so many ways. Please take a minute on Monday of Thanksgiving Week to do a shout-out to people you know who are making a big difference for health. Check out this link for details. And do enjoy Thanksgiving.  My letters will resume on Thursday, November 29.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: The $6 billion dollar election

Dear Research Advocate,

By far the most expensive, and arguably one of the most divisive, election seasons in history is behind us. A lot of money was spent to find out that Americans continue to hold divergent views on many issues. We heard very little about research during the election because, in most ways, it is not a divisive issue; support is both bipartisan and grounded in common sense. The problem is that it can be taken too much for granted. At a time when Americans are looking for an end to standoff politics and want action on things we can feel good about as a nation, prioritizing research for health can be the perfect healing issue — something we can all be proud of. But let’s be clear: Action to prioritize research will only happen if we speak out to put it in the spotlight as policy makers regroup to address the fiscal cliff. We need to convince policy makers that prioritizing research is the smart thing to do as well — smart for job creation and to drive the economy, smart for assuring our global competitiveness, smart for patients, and smart for maximizing innovations that will save lives and drive down the cost of health care.

We must unite and speak with one voice that we need cures, not cuts! If you are not already on board our week of advocacy November 12-16, I encourage you to add your organization to our list of partners and engage your networks to participate in the various strategies that are planned, including a call-in day, a day for visits to district offices, an email-in day, and a Hill day entailing visits to a number of DC offices. All these strategies are supported by an inside-the-Beltway advertising campaign designed to get maximum attention. Click here to see the latest schedule of events for the week ahead. If you would like to sign up for the Hill day, have other events that you would like to include in the calendar, or would like more information, contact Ellie Dehoney at edehoney@researchamerica.org. As an important part of this effort, we are circulating a sign-on letter urging Congress to prioritize research in a deal averting sequestration or any other plan for addressing the deficit. Read the full letter here, and contact Jordan Gates at jgates@researchamerica.org for an updated list of cosigners and/or to sign on. The deadline is fast approaching — be sure to sign today!

Post-election, it is instructive to take a look at the responses of various candidates who responded to Your Candidates–Your Health, our voter education initiative. I recommend taking a quick look at President Obama’s responses here, noting his commitment to doubling funding for federal research agencies. As a sampling of other responses take a look at those of Rep. Dr. Dan Benishek (R-MI), who held his seat, here. In Massachusetts, Joe Kennedy won a seat in the 4th District – judging from his responses here, he will be one of our new champions. Medical research champion Brian Bilbray (R-CA) is locked in a not-yet-called election in San Diego. For more on what this election means, be sure to attend our post-election event on November 15th.

I have had the chance to talk about the post-election prospects for research as they impact all the elements of the research enterprise on BioCentury This Week. This program can be viewed here. Maybe you will watch it with a copy of the latest (tomorrow’s) issue of Science magazine in hand. In the lead editorial, AAAS CEO Dr. Alan Leshner and I urge the science community — as individuals as well as through their institutions and associations — to speak out now to Congress or face the decline of research in this nation. This is not a time to hold back! As you reach out, make use of resources on the website for the Week of Advocacy, www.saveresearch.org, including op-ed and letter-to-the editor templates, sample tweets and a new fact sheet on the economic impact of NIH. There are also links to many extraordinary resources produced by FASEB, UMR, AAAS, Ad Hoc and many other organizations. We thank you all for uniting in saying to Congress and the administration: WE NEED CURES, NOT CUTS!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: This just in…

Dear Research Advocate,

If we cut back our investments in science and research, we will lose out on the companies and innovation that come with it. That was the message President Obama delivered Tuesday night during the second presidential debate. Governor Romney mentioned the wisdom of keeping STEM graduates in the U.S. by “stapling a green card” to their diplomas. In addition, Governor Romney responded to our Your Candidates – Your Health voter education initiative with a statement that stresses his commitment to ensuring government plays a role in supporting life sciences research and asserting that medical innovation must be a national priority. Please share both Governor Romney’s and President Obama’s responses with your networks and encourage other candidates to complete the questionnaire before Election Day.

“Are we too numb to care about the Nobel prizes in science?” That was one of the headlines of my op-ed in response to the Nobel Prize announcements, published in nine McClatchy-owned newspapers across the country to date, including the Sacramento Bee. Headlines assigned by other editors tell the story: “Invest in science? A no-brainer,” “Why won’t we make a commitment to science?”; “World-class investment brings world-class science,” and “Science still needs support.” I describe how science is being given short shrift by policy makers as unprecedented budget cuts loom. Click here to read the op-ed and see a full list of the papers that have run it — this is a made-to-order opportunity for you to submit a letter to the editor. Keep the momentum of our message going! For something fresh to use in your letter, cite new data from Pew Research indicating that, asked about ways to cut the nation’s deficit, 54% of Americans are opposed to reducing funding for scientific research.

Finally, I note with sadness the passing of Senator Arlen Specter. He will be sorely missed and long remembered for his steadfast championship of NIH. Research!America had the opportunity to honor him twice – in 2000 with the Whitehead Award and again in 2009 with our rarely given Legacy Award.  His is indeed a grand legacy of significance to the health and well-being of the American public and people everywhere.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Just as competitive as the Olympics, but not on the national radar screen

Dear Research Advocate,

This week’s Nobel Prize announcements are a fine reminder of how government-supported research plays a critical role in expanding our knowledge, leading not only to worldwide recognition but taking us closer to understanding and curing disease. The winners of the prize for chemistry, Dr. Robert Lefkowitz, Howard Hughes Medical Research investigator and professor at Duke University Medical Center, and Dr. Brian Kobilka of Stanford University School of Medicine both received grants from the National Institutes of Health, as did one of the physiology and medicine awardees, Dr. Shinya Yamanaka. They are among the many Nobel laureates whose important work throughout the years has been supported by the American taxpayer.

Wouldn’t it be great if candidates for election this November were talking about the Nobel Prizes? Among the responses to our voter education initiative we received this week was the telling remark from one incumbent that not only does his campaign not have a science advisor, he believes that no candidate (for the House) does! Although we know for a fact that he isn’t entirely correct, his perception is close enough to reality to give an insight into the priority level our issue has in this election. We’ll know that candidates care about worldwide recognition in science — which is at least as competitive as the Olympics — when they talk up American “wins” of the Nobel science prizes. Don’t let the candidates’ apparent disinterest in the Nobel stop you from drawing attention to the awardees’ accomplishments. Write a letter to the editor today!

Far from being a priority, research, and thus medical progress, is threatened by the specter of sequester. Research advocates must work together to convey the same message to policy makers: prioritize health research. Life Technologies, a Research!America member, has launched a new grassroots tool that makes it quick and easy to reach out to your representatives to urge them to halt the sequester before it’s too late.

We’re continuing to hear more about the local impact of sequestration, and that is a good thing if we expect to stop it in its tracks. Typical of explanations we’re seeing is that of Dr. Bill Chin, executive dean for research at Harvard Medical School, who describes sequestration as a “knife hanging over our heads … About a quarter of new grants won’t be funded and funding will be reduced for current projects working on cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and heart disease, all of which have had remarkable advances recently.” The New York Times, citing a report from AAAS, explains that federal R&D funding could be cut by more than $12 billion in 2013 alone. The article calls out the vital role of the government in incubating the new ideas that are commercialized by the private sector, leading to new jobs and even new industries. Talk about return on investment! (And we should talk about it!) Clearly, maintaining and boosting our investments in research is one of the key ingredients for repowering and revitalizing our economy.

Vice President Joe Biden will be facing off with Rep. Paul Ryan in the vice presidential debate tonight. We can expect health and health care to be part of the discussion, which provides an opportunity to connect the dots to research. As you monitor the discussion, be sure to weigh in on social media to remind the candidates that research for health should be a priority as we seek to drive innovation and medical progress.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Dying to know more…

Dear Research Advocate,

The first presidential debate gave us little to go on regarding research for health. Americans are dying to know more – many, quite literally dying – about what either presidential candidate would do to speed up medical progress in the face of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS and the host of other disabling and deadly health threats that breed suffering, compromise independence and drive spiraling health care costs. Add to that the pivotal role medical innovation plays in our economy, and Americans absolutely deserve to know whether candidates will champion or shortchange it. All of us must say to candidates: Tell us what you will do, share your views – candidates for president and Congress alike. Take 30 seconds to ask your candidates to speak out and then help more by sharing this alert.

Another issue that the candidates failed to adequately address in last night’s debate was sequestration, and that’s why we must continue to speak up. If more of us get involved we can shift the halt-the-sequester momentum into high gear – check out the following articles and then write your own op-ed: Athens (GA) Banner-HeraldMontgomery Advertiser. The Los Angeles Times highlighted a new AAAS report on the impact of sequestration (read here). The report provides estimates of just how much states stand to lose under sequestration, with California alone being deprived of over $11 billion in R&D funding over a 5-year period! How much does your state stand to lose? Find out via FASEB’s outstanding series of new fact sheets that illustrate the importance and impact of NIH funding close to home. Take a moment to find the fact sheet for your state or district and use this information in your advocacy efforts.

For years, our public polling has shown that Americans strongly support incentives for companies that are investing in R&D – investments that create jobs and foster innovation. An article recently published in The Atlantic drives this point home, calling on policy makers to not only expand the R&D tax credit but to make it permanent. This is a common-sense policy solution that would enhance our competitiveness at a time when other nations are boosting investment in research and creating new incentives to encourage the private sector to invest. We need to step up, or we will be left behind.

And, speaking of the global nature of science as well as economic interdependence, we are eager to hear the announcements of the Nobel Prizes, starting this coming Monday. Here’s a suggestion: Take the opportunity of the announcements to make a phone call, send an email or write a letter to the editor to call attention to the importance of maintaining strong support of science in this country. Doing so could prove critical in reversing the perception among Capitol Hill staffers that few members of the science community are engaged in the public policy conversation – volume matters and that means every one of us needs to step up.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

Statement from Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on Presidential Debate

October 3, 2012

The first Presidential debate was a missed opportunity for the candidates to outline a vision for putting research and innovation to work to improve health and strengthen the economy.  Fleeting references to science and research failed to give voters confidence in this regard.  We learned some things in this debate, but we are still — many of us literally — dying to know what either candidate will do to assure that research for health will be a priority for this nation.  Without medical progress, driven by research and innovation, there will be no chance of controlling health care costs or assuring our nation’s continued leadership in the life sciences. We strongly urge the candidates to respond to questions from Americans who are concerned about the impact of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer and other disabling diseases to our nation’s health and prosperity.

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Prime Time for Research?

Dear Research Advocate,

The first presidential debate will be held Wednesday, October 3 at the University of Denver. This debate will likely be the only one in which health issues are discussed: Will the candidates talk about research and innovation in that context? This is our chance to speak up, whether they do (bravo!) or don’t (why not??). While watching, include the Twitter handle for the debates (@NewsHour) in your tweets, and afterwards, send a letter to the editor of your local paper. This is the final phase of our Your CandidatesYour Health voter education initiative. We know from experience over the years that all of us – stakeholders and advocates for research – become much more energized as the election nears. Be sure to join your colleagues and all fellow advocates in reaching out to the candidates you will see on your ballot on November 6. Tell them that knowing their views on our issues will influence your vote. In fact, don’t wait for the debate next week – follow this link and send your candidates an email today. Then, send the same link to three people you know, asking them to take action. Together, we can make research a campaign issue, building champions we can rely on in 2013 and beyond.

If you are looking for new arguments to make your case, we have recommendations for you. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) has released a startling report about the long-term economic impacts of sequester, estimating that sequester could cost our economy between $203 billion and $860 billion in GDP! As if this weren’t bad enough, the cuts would result in 200,000 jobs lost in 2013 alone. You can find the full report here and watch the webcast of the report rollout here. An op-ed that appeared in The Week by former Sen. Bill Frist provides additional grist for the mill – he placed familiar statistics into context, making a compelling case for ensuring that medical research is a top national priority. One of many great quotes: “In 2010 alone, the most recent year we have accurate numbers for, medical research accounted for $69 billion worth of economic activity here in America and $90 billion worth of exports. Not to mention NIH funding alone created 480,000 new, good jobs. All in one year.”

In case you missed it, Dr. Francis Collins was on BioCentury TV this past weekend. It’s definitely a segment worth watching – Dr. Collins cites statistic after statistic demonstrating why it is so important to stop sequestration in its tracks. This Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m. ET on WUSA-9 in the D.C. metro area, Research!America Board member The Hon. Mike Castle will be on the air on BioCentury to discuss what the future may hold for research. Be sure to tune in! Indeed, many of our Board members are actively advocating for research: “Speak up now or suffer the consequences later,” said Research!America Board Chair, The Hon. John Porter, at a forum convened by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) this week. Porter spoke about the consequences of apathy among scientists in a budgetary and political environment that poses dramatic risks for science, and again emphasized the importance of the coming election: “the most important in my lifetime.” Not the time for advocates to sit on the sidelines.

Several large pharmaceutical companies, including many Research!America members, have come together to form a new nonprofit to help streamline and accelerate the drug development process. Transcelerate Biopharma is the new outfit, based in Philadelphia. The aim is to develop a variety of standards to improve the efficiency of drug discovery, a pursuit that is notoriously costly and lengthy. See this recent Forbes article to learn more about Transcelerate Biopharma, ably led by CEO Garry Neil, formerly of Johnson & Johnson. In a note of synchronicity, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology (PCAST) released a new report urging FDA to speed approval of drugs for high-risk patients. For more information, read the article in the Wall Street Journal and see the full report here.

Finally, for an excellent overview of the “fiscal cliff,” see a new brief from Bloomberg Government, detailing implications for our economy and some insight into what our next Congress may look like.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: New Poll – Likely Voters Say to Congress: Stay in Session, Avoid Taking Us Over the Fiscal Cliff

Dear Research Advocate,

To call attention to the unintended consequences of the sequester, we held a press briefing today in partnership with United for Medical Research. Two Members of Congress who are still in town, Reps. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Brian Bilbray (R-CA), spoke about the high priority the nation must place on NIH and about the usefulness of data from a new national public opinion poll showing that 51% of Americans say that across-the-board cuts are not the right way to reduce the deficit. To see more poll results for use in your advocacy, click here. Other speakers this morning spoke about what’s at stake for everyone who cares about the research enterprise: patient hopes for cures delayed; industries unable to create new jobs and drive innovation in frustration about U.S. policies and lack of predictability; young scientists becoming discouraged and accepting offers to work in other countries – countries that have made research a clear priority. All of this further burdens our national deficit – we need research to combat the rising cost of health care by delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s and a host of other diseases. As Rep. Markey said, it will take high energy and coordination to get our message of research as a priority heard during the lame-duck session. You will be hearing more from us about how to assure that happens, but in the meantime, don’t forget that there is an important election going on (see below).

First a quick recap of what sequestration means, according to a new OMB report. Most agencies would be hit with an 8.2% cut – NIH alone would lose $2.5 billion in 2013! It is still unclear what level of discretion agency heads would have in carrying out these cuts. Losses at the CDC would be $464 million, the FDA would lose $318 million, and the NSF would be cut by $577 million. See our new one-pager with the latest data.

There is an additional dimension to the FDA cut that should be of significant concern to all advocates for medical progress. Part of the cut diverts industry-supplied user fees into deficit reduction. Those fees are paid by industry for the express purpose of ensuring FDA has the resources to review new medicines and medical devices on a timely basis. The precedent of playing bait and switch with user fees is a dangerous one, particularly since these fees are voluntary. Why should the drug and device industries agree to pay user fees in the future knowing that still more time will be lost in approvals – and patients will be forced to wait longer for new treatments and cures. We must work together to address it.

We all need to do our part to make sure the media is covering all the aspects of the threat of sequestration, making it more evident to all Americans just what is at stake. We’ve already seen National Journal release an article about our new polling data. The Atlantic released a story about how sequester would impact science budgets, citing another recent article from ScienceInsider. The Scientist also reported on the story, quoting Ellie Dehoney, our VP for policy and programs. This week, the Rochester (MN) Post-Bulletin reported how the cuts at NIH could impact the Mayo Clinic, a Research!America member. For those of you that may have contacts with local or national media, now is the time to let them know about the impact where you live.

We are only a month and half away from the election. We know from many of our members and partners that they are calling/writing/emailing campaigns to urge participation in the Your Candidates –Your Health voter education initiative. Please join the momentum and help drive the campaign … we don’t have much time left to make it clear to candidates that it isn’t only lobbyists and professional advocates (people like us at Research!America) who care about research and want them to talk about it. Every candidate should be hearing from hundreds of concerned stakeholders. Make sure you are in that number!

Demonstrations of the value of NIH and NSF research will soon be honored by Research!America member FASEB. Submit events, exhibits or web-based outreach that highlight the value that research agencies deliver and compete for a cash prize! For details, click here.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Congress is back and there is lots to talk about

Dear Research Advocate,

Congress is back in Washington but still in campaign mode, making its decisions with the election very much in mind. A 6-month continuing resolution (C.R.) is expected to pass momentarily. The C.R. would put off appropriations decision-making until the new Congress has gotten under way, flat-funding the government through March of next year at fiscal 2012 levels. The atmosphere of fiscal uncertainty for the agencies that fund research, and everyone seeking that funding, is in fact demoralizing in the extreme. Compounding the problem is that the C.R. does nothing to address the looming problem of sequestration, which is scheduled to take effect on January 2, 2013. The administration is slated to release a report tomorrow detailing how the sequestration cuts would be implemented at the department and agency level; it is unlikely to single out research and innovation for special protection. Thus it is more important than ever that our stakeholder community unite in a call to stop sequestration. We encourage you to join us and other members of the United for Medical Research (UMR) coalition on September 20 in a press conference at the National Press Club at 9:30 a.m. Please RSVP to sbauer@gpgdc.com.

Last week, a timely op-ed by Michael Milken in the The Wall Street Journal highlighted the wondrous medical advances and economic prosperity that have been made possible through investments in research. The op-ed coincided with the Milken-sponsored Celebration of Science, a weekend-long series of discussions and other events shining a spotlight on the multifaceted contributions of science to the well-being of Americans and populations throughout the world. In the course of the proceedings, both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) spoke forcefully about the high priority the nation must place on medical research.

On Tuesday this week, the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation announced the recipients of the prestigious Lasker Awards – often referred to as the ‘American Nobels’ – which will be presented in New York City later this month. The accomplishments of these awardees exemplify the power of research to unlock knowledge that is of invaluable benefit to society. Mary Lasker, a founder of Research!America, lives on with her hard-hitting message: “If you think research is expensive, try disease!” For timely information on the costs of disease as well as the value and promise of research, see our fact sheets. Use them in your advocacy!

Three other media pieces this week were timed for Congress’ return. Our Your Candidates-Your Health ad is running in Politico now. Use it to leverage your request to candidates to tell us all what they will do to make research a priority. A Washington Post op-ed co-authored by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) and Research!America board member and AAAS Executive Director Dr. Alan Leshner fights back against kneejerk reactions to research based on the name of the project and/or the misconception that science is a mechanical process rather than an iterative, dynamic one. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and others have come together to recognize outstanding researchers whose contributions belie their detractors with the first Golden Goose Award ceremony.

With her letter in the The Wall Street Journal, Ellen Sigal, chairman and founder of Friends of Cancer Research and a Research!America Board member, emphasizes that the views and values of patients must be taken into account when FDA makes the risk vs. benefit calculations that factor so importantly in drug approval decisions. She points out that “risk” is in the eye of the beholder when a new drug is the last and best hope for a terminally ill patient. It is a welcome development that more patients and patient groups are stepping up to take their rightful place in the research process, ultimately driving it across the finish line faster. Patient engagement with Congress has always been high impact; now we need it to influence candidates to make medical progress a top national priority.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Reading Between the Lines, part 2

Dear Research Advocate,

In last week’s letter, I highlighted research-related themes in the Republican National Platform. The good news included explicit support for basic and applied research and a pledge to make the R&D tax credit permanent. The bad news included strident criticism of FDA — such that support for adequate funding was unclear — and opposition to embryonic stem cell research. The Democratic platform asserts that Democrats will “double funding for key basic research agencies.” It also goes further than the Republican platform in improving the research and development tax credit and places a very strong emphasis on science education as critical to our innovation economy. And, it reiterates Democratic support for embryonic stem cell research.

Do platforms matter? Yes and no. Yes, in that the language comes from a broad base of each party’s membership. It lays out principles that we can ask policy makers to adhere to, and we can see how well those principles track with the polls we regularly commission. But also no — as a respected Nobel laureate reminded me in an insightful response to my last letter, it is a mistake to breathe easy based on the rhetoric in these platforms. Actions speak louder than words, and the fact is Republicans and Democrats alike supported the Budget Control Act (BCA), which not only applies across-the-board cuts to research spending but also tightly restrains annual growth in discretionary spending. That makes it difficult to envision any kind of “moonshot” for research or even a basic policy frame that truly promotes research and innovation. Despite what these platforms assert, policy makers have taken their eye off the ball. The public is not happy about that fact. Our new polling data shows that only 19% of likely voters believe elected officials are paying enough attention to combating disease. For more on this point, see my piece this week in The Hill’s Congress Blog. It ends with a call to action to engage the candidates — you can lead the way in doing just that among your network of colleagues, family and friends.

In case you missed it, a U.S. appeals court has upheld the legality of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research — a major victory for advocates and patients alike. See this recent ScienceInsider article to learn more about the ruling.

In past letters, I’ve written extensively about the grave threat that sequester poses to American research and innovation, and the news seems to be getting worse. According to the Alliance for a Stronger FDA, the user fees that FDA collects for review of drugs and devices may be subject to sequestration in addition to the funding provided through taxes. In effect, the FDA budget would be double-slashed with cuts totaling $294 million! Just imagine the havoc that these cuts would wreak on our nation’s ability to bring new, critical treatments to patients. With Congress reconvening next week, please remind lawmakers that they are playing with fire. Research is important. Innovation is important. Blind, across-the board funding cuts aren’t just an abdication of congressional responsibility, they are a divestment in medical and economic progress.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Reading between the Lines and then Taking Action

Dear Research Advocate,

As you know, the Republican Party Platform was unveiled Tuesday during the convention in Tampa. There are direct references to medical and health research and other statements that — if not explicit — definitely imply the need for such research. We can draw from both to enhance our advocacy efforts.

The following exemplifies the direct and indirect nature of the platform’s embrace of medical and health research:

“We support federal investment in health care delivery systems and solutions creating innovative means to provide greater, more cost-effective access to high quality health care. We also support federal investment in basic and applied biomedical research, especially the neuroscience research that may hold great potential for dealing with diseases and disorders such as autism, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. If we are to make significant headway against breast and prostate cancer, diabetes and other killers, research must consider the special needs of formerly neglected groups.”

The platform explicitly supports federal funding for basic and applied medical research, and, if I am interpreting the text correctly, acknowledges the need to address health disparities as part of the nation’s research agenda. This statement also implies the need for health services research (HSR) to devise “solutions” that improve health care access, cost-effectiveness and quality. Unfortunately the House Labor-H appropriations bill precludes NIH funding for health economics research — a key subset of HSR — and virtually zeroes out the budget of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the main funder of HSR. The platform provides advocates fresh talking points as final appropriations decisions are made later this year.

The Republican platform also states: “Even expensive prevention is preferable to more costly treatment later on.” While the rest of the statement focuses on personal responsibility, research plays an undeniable role in effective prevention. Vaccines, the nicotine patch, successful drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs … all are grounded in research. Advocates can segue directly from the platform to the importance of prevention research at CDC and other agencies … and we should. Three other sections of the platform are noteworthy. It goes hard on the FDA, asserting that it needs significant reform. The platform does not mention funding, but there is a logical connection here. Patient groups, scientists, industry and FDA leaders themselves are all committed to strengthening the agency and are working hard to accomplish just that. Support for FDA reform cannot logically be decoupled from support for FDA funding, a point that must not get lost in the reform debate.

Second, the platform advocates making the R&D tax credit permanent. Bravo!  We should increase and make other improvements to the credit as well.

Finally, the platform opposes embryonic stem cell research. Not a surprise, but a disappointment.  Proponents must keep fighting this battle, drawing strength from the recent court victory in which President Obama’s executive order was once again upheld.

There is much to applaud in the Republican platform when it comes to federal support for both medical and health research. Let’s take that and run with it. In an article that appeared this week in Forbes, John Zogby discusses the results of our recent national poll. He focuses on the exceptional level of agreement between different demographic and ideological subsets of the American population on issues related to health and medical research. We see that reality reflected in many of the planks in the Republican platform. Indeed most of the results from our poll will not surprise you (except, perhaps, the fact that a majority of Americans of all stripes would pay a dollar more per week in taxes if they knew it was going toward medical research), but it’s a fact that most policy makers have not embraced medical progress as a goal worthy of mentioning in campaign speeches or on their campaign websites. Platforms aside, this gives Americans no basis by which to evaluate whether individual candidates will champion or chop research funding and no assurance that they will take medical innovation into account when evaluating policy decisions that could stimulate or stifle it. Your Candidates-Your Health is an important way that candidates can make their opinions known about medical and health research. Advocates can do their part by attending town halls, visiting campaign offices, writing op-eds and letters to the editor, and using these polling results to convince candidates that promoting medical progress should be one of their core missions.

We have our work cut out for us, but we will succeed if we do more than parse the rhetoric — we have to take action!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Turn up the Volume on Sequester

Dear Research Advocate,

As the political conventions get underway, we have further evidence that voters want candidates to make research for health a prominent issue, now and after the election.  Our latest national public opinion poll, conducted a week ago, shows voters want to elect candidates who value and highly prioritize the importance of medical progress. Among the highlights: 90% say it’s important for candidates to address medical research; 59% say elected officials in Washington are not paying enough attention to combating deadly diseases, so much so that 63% say the next president should announce initiatives promoting medical progress in his “first 100 days in office.” And the media is taking notice, with articles covering our new poll in POLITICO Pro, Business Insider, The Hill and Roll Call. Clearly, voters will support candidates who share their commitment to research for health.

In case you missed it, our Your Candidates – Your Health initiative was featured in an advertisement in USA TODAY. If you haven’t already, please reach out to your representatives and feel free to cite the recent ad as another reason for them to participate in the initiative. You can also use our Grassroots Guide to activate your networks via social media or raise awareness with a letter-to-the editor or op-ed.

In past letters, I’ve written extensively about the sequester and its implications for research, yet I am hearing reports that many research stakeholders are just now learning about the seriousness that this threat poses. If we are to effectively fight the sequester, we must ensure that all research stakeholders and the public at large are informed about this issue. The American Chemical Society has produced an excellent video outlining the origins and implications of sequester. We also saw a heartfelt letter to the editor in the Hattiesburg American written from the perspective of a mother, whose son is alive today because of investments in medical research. InsideHealthPolicy.com (subscription only) published a story about how the biomedical research community is uniting to stop the sequester, drawing on one of our statements. In The News & Observer, E. Wayne Holden, CEO of RTI International and Research!America member, writes about the need to reduce the deficit while maintaining our investments in basic and applied research. Nightly Business Report also picked up the story, in a segment emphasizing the impact on NIH and medical research.

As part of our ongoing efforts to convey to Congress the value of investing in research, we’ve just released a new fact sheet – Genomics Research: Transforming Health and Powering the Bioeconomy. This document demonstrates the immense return on investment from the Human Genome Project and features survivor stories that showcase how cutting-edge sequencing technology can save and improve lives. As a member of Research!America, use our fact sheets to convey that research is vital to our quality of life, our economic progress, and our nation’s future. As always, let us know how we can help.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

Research!America Press Release: Likely Voters Say President’s “First 100 Days in Office” Should Include Plans for Promoting Medical Progress

As Political Conventions Begin, Voters say it’s Important for Candidates to Address Medical Research

WASHINGTON—August 22, 2012— On the eve of the political conventions, nearly two-thirds of likely voters say the next president should announce initiatives promoting medical progress during his “first 100 days in office,” according to a new national public opinion poll commissioned by Research!America.  And nearly three-quarters of those polled say it’s important for candidates for the presidency and Congress to have a science advisor.  The findings reveal deep concerns among voters about the lack of attention candidates and elected officials have assigned to research.

“Research and innovation, despite its contributions to the nation’s health and the economy, has been given short-shrift by candidates this year – even as funding for research is at high risk in budget discussions,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. “This is troubling given the fact that deep spending cuts for government supported research and failure to adopt policies promoting competitiveness could drastically slow the pace of discovery and development at a time when health threats are expanding in many communities.”

Nearly 60 percent of likely voters say elected officials in Washington are not paying enough attention to combating the many deadly diseases that afflict Americans. An overwhelming majority of voters (90%) say it is important for candidates to address medical and health research this year. With concern about health care costs rising, 77% of likely voters say the federal government should fund research to make the health care system more efficient and effective. And despite the tough economy, more than half (53%) are willing to pay $1 per week more in taxes if they were certain that all of the money would be spent for additional research.

“Americans get the importance of medical research.  Without a strong investment in research, we can’t combat disease, we can’t reduce exploding health care costs and we can’t balance our budget,” added Woolley.

Poll highlights include:

  • 68% believe the federal government should increase support for scientific research that advances the frontiers of knowledge and supports private sector innovation.
  • 60% say medical progress will slip in the U.S. if another country takes the lead in science, technology and medical innovation.
  • 66% say their quality of life has been improved by medical research over last decade.
  • 61% favor expanding federal funding for research using embryonic stem cells.
  • Only 15% know that medical research in the U.S. is conducted in every state.

To view the poll, visit: www.researchamerica.org/nationalpoll2012

Research!America’s national voter education initiative Your Candidates-Your Health, invites candidates for the presidency and Congress to state their views on medical research and related issues.  The brief questionnaire can be found at www.yourcandidatesyourhealth.org.

The National Public Opinion Pollwas conducted online in August 2012 by JZ Analytics for Research!America. The poll has a sample size of 1,052 likely U.S. voters with a theoretical sampling error of +/- 3.1%.

About us: Research!America is the nation’s largest nonprofit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority. Founded in 1989, Research!America is supported by member organizations that represent the voices of 125 million Americans. Visit www.researchamerica.org.

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A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Romney adds Ryan and healthcare to election conversation

Dear Research Advocate,

With Rep. Paul Ryan joining the Romney ticket, health is back on the national agenda. Partisan politics aside, this conversation is overdue, since health is indeed an issue that will make or bankrupt us. Research has always figured prominently in the wellbeing of Americans and America – research brought an end to the polio epidemic, which could have bankrupted the nation in the 1950s, and research is the only answer to the scourge of Alzheimer’s that threatens health, quality of life and our national checkbook today. And that is just a starting point for the conversation I hope you are having with everyone who wants to talk about the election. Take the opportunity to bridge from health care to health research and remind Americans that research must be a higher priority. As Research!America Chair and former Congressman John Porter has said, “Priorities will be chosen, and money will be spent.” Let’s make sure health research is a top priority.

How much do we know about Rep. Paul Ryan’s position on our issues? One place to start is with Rep. Paul Ryan’s response to our Your Congress – Your Health questionnaire of 2007. In his responses, Rep. Ryan calls for increasing NIH funding and endorses the importance of STEM education, although not federal support for stem cell research. Obviously, the political and fiscal climate has shifted dramatically since 2007, and the “Ryan budget” passed earlier this year by the House could deprive discretionary programs of funding vital to research, (see my comment in Medpage Today).  

The case for research today is in fact stronger than it was five years ago. The Wall Street Journal has published an op-ed by two Nobel laureates, providing a clear and compelling case for the government’s role in fostering basic research — and including research in economics — yielding huge dividends for our health and economy as a whole. Dr. Peter Kohler, Vice Chancellor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has published a piece carrying an equally compelling message in the NWAonline and a terrific op-ed has appeared in the Press Democrat by Dr. Dennis Mangan, a former NIH program director now working as a science communication advisor in Santa Rosa, CA. It would be a privilege to work with you on your own op-ed or letter to the editor making the case for policies that promote continued medical progress.

In past letters, I’ve written about the sequester and its potential for gutting funding for health research. The Coalition for Health Funding, of which Research!America is a member, has released a grassroots toolkit to educate and equip advocates to fight the sequester. Please circulate these tools to your networks and make sure that we stand together against the sequester. Make it a point to engage with candidates while they are campaigning around the nation this month.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley