Tag Archives: basic research

Federal Health Agencies 2014 Year in Review

Photo credit: NIH.gov

Photo credit: NIH.gov

From advances in diabetes research to record approval of drugs to treat rare diseases, taxpayer funded research and the effective employment of regulatory tools played a significant role in improving the health and wellbeing of Americans in 2014. Below is a year-end roundup of research highlights and scientific achievements from the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Science Foundation, Food and Drug Administration and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

To fuel this momentum in scientific discovery and development, policymakers must commit to robust funding for the federal health agencies and policies that support private sector innovation. Take action today and tell your elected officials to make research for health a higher national priority in the 114th Congress.

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Inspiration from Sochi

Dear Research Advocate:

People everywhere are captivated by the world-class athletes competing at the Winter Olympics. The personal commitment, dedication and motivation on display is certainly an essential ingredient for medalling, but it is not sufficient: Each nation fielding a team must commit to supporting sustained excellence. And both the public and private sectors play a role. There are some interesting parallels to science and innovation — we don’t see it in the public eye every day but when it comes to the fore, it’s the kind of success that affirms the human spirit in a compelling way. When lives are saved with a new therapy or new vaccine, we all take heart and we celebrate, perhaps not realizing that it took years of training, teamwork and ‘practice’ to arrive first at the finish line. What it takes to remain internationally competitive in any global arena — very much including science and innovation — is the combination of well-trained and dedicated people at the top of their form, plus a firm national commitment over a many-year period.

In journalistic coverage that we don’t see often enough, a special report in Monday’s Washington Post describes how government-funded basic research has led to new cancer therapies and a potential “cancer vaccine” currently undergoing testing in the private sector. This is a perfect example of the well-honed teamwork that is our public-private sector research enterprise. But without public sector financing, private sector capital and a commitment to STEM education, the pipeline will not only dry up, its infrastructure will crumble. As Congress readies itself to receive and respond to the president’s budget in early March, email your representatives in Washington to let them know that when it comes to medical research and innovation, the U.S. must continue to go for the gold. That means recommitting to global leadership.

With long-standing champions of science retiring, spurring that commitment will undoubtedly be a steeper climb. Congressman Rush Holt, a physicist whose legacy in Congress as a champion for science, research and STEM education is truly superlative, announced his retirement on Tuesday. His is the latest retirement in a string that reminds us how pivotally important one Member of Congress can be in advancing the best interests of our nation, and it underscores the importance of cultivation of new champions.

Tomorrow morning several NIH directors (NINDS, NICHD, NHLBI and NIAMS) will appear on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal. The call-in program airs from 7:30 – 9:30 a.m. Eastern. I hope you take advantage of participating in this nationally broadcast program. Ask the directors what they think it will take to assure gold-medal winning research now and in the years ahead! Here are the Washington Journal’s phone numbers for calling in tomorrow:

  • Democrats: 202-585-3880
  • Republicans: 202-585-3881
  • Independents: 202-585-3882
  • Outside U.S.: 202-585-3883

I hope to hear your voice on the air!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Breakthrough year?

Dear Research Advocate:

During his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Obama acknowledged the important role federally funded research plays in maintaining our global competitive edge and referenced the harm done to basic science by sequestration. Using the example of vaccines, he highlighted the importance of applied research, not only for our health but for the strength of our economy. See my statement about the address here. For the president to succeed in achieving a “breakthrough year for America” — a theme in his address that he is repeating in appearances across the nation — we urge him to put science and innovation at the forefront. I emphasized this in a letter we sent to him today.

During the State of the Union Congressional Debrief sponsored by The Atlantic and National Journal, I asked Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO-01) whether Congress would work with the president to undo the damage done to basic research. She said that she and others are working in a bipartisan way to assure that “America is the top nation for research in the world.” In an effort to combat the underfunding and underappreciation for federally funded science, our award-winning voter education initiative is launching shortly —  “Ask Your Candidates! Is Medical Progress a Priority?” It is critical that we all ask congressional candidates their views about assuring medical progress. I encourage you to participate in this important campaign as we enter the primary and then general election season.

Last week, the attention of the business community and other leaders was trained on Davos, Switzerland. Comments by Harvard economist Larry Summers at the World Economic Forum put U.S. underinvestment in medical progress into context. It’s a message worth repeating. “We are spending 25 [percent] less on research in the life sciences than we were five years ago. That is a deficit with huge human consequences. We have to move on from viewing deficits in terms of financial debt and focus on the deficits we are bequeathing to our children.”

Please join me in extending hearty congratulations to Research!America Chair and former Congressman John Edward Porter, who will receive the National Academy of Sciences’ most prestigious award, the Public Welfare Medal, at a ceremony this spring. This award, rarely given to a non-scientist, recognizes John for decades of advocacy on behalf of medical research and salutes his many accomplishments, including leadership in the Congress for medical and all scientific research, resulting in increased federal support of our nation’s science agencies.  He continues his leadership for science today!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

Statement by Research!America president and CEO Mary Woolley on President Obama’s State of the Union Speech

January 29, 2014

It’s heartening President Obama chose to emphasize in his speech the significance of federally funded basic research and the need to undo the damage that has been done to it in recent years with deep spending cuts. The president used language the science community epitomizes – he spoke of working for “breakthroughs” and a nation motivated by opportunity. But actions speak louder than words. Congress and the White House must treat research and innovation as the health and economic imperative it has always been and invest in expanding our nation’s research capacity. It bears on business and job creation in both the research and manufacturing sectors; it bears on our nation’s ability to slow or stop the progression of disabling, deadly and federal deficit-perpetuating diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer and heart disease; and most importantly, it bears on the quality of life for Americans now and in the future. Our elected officials must eliminate sequestration for good and support medical innovation at the level of scientific opportunity to ensure more breakthroughs in coming years.

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A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Forty-three days and counting

Dear Research Advocate:

Yesterday, the Budget Conference Committee, chaired by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI-01), met for the first time. The committee only has until December 13 to accomplish its task of producing at least a short-term budget. Expectations are modest considering the short timeline, the House and Senate recess schedules, and the number of issues declared “off the table.” There is some talk of replacing sequestration, at least for the remainder of FY14, with selected cuts. In order to assure that research is not cut and in fact is prioritized for an increase, many stakeholders must speak up. It is essential that our issue is discussed as a priority every day in this 43-day countdown — in the media, in hometown districts, by staffers and by our elected officials. Please be sure to speak out. Urge your Members of Congress to advocate on your behalf — and on behalf of all who are depending on research for health — to their colleagues on the Budget Conference Committee.

Sequestration really must go! Useful facts to bolster our case about how sequestration is stalling scientific R&D in this country — to the detriment of business and consumers alike — is now at the ready. Columnist Gerald F. Seib of The Wall Street Journal points to many consumer products and their components that have origins in federally supported basic research, adding billions of dollars to our economy over the decades. And the Science Coalition has released a new report Sparking Economic Growth 2.0 highlighting 100 companies whose beginnings were aided by federally funded university research. Think of Google’s roots in NSF funding and Genentech’s in NIH, for just two prominent examples. The report describes the role these research-based companies play in bringing transformative innovations to market, creating jobs and contributing to economic growth. It’s all too easy to forget, once a business is thriving, how taxpayer funding helped them get its start. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Special early short edition this week

Dear Research Advocate:

I am sending out my letter early this week so that you can plan now, if you are not able to be with us in person tomorrow in Washington, to join us electronically for our National Health Research Forum. With the theme of “Straight Talk,” our first-rate panelists will speak candidly about where our medical and health ecosystem is headed today — what the possibilities are, if we give research and innovation every chance to succeed — and what the policy and funding challenges are as we go forward. We thank Lilly, our lead sponsor; all our additional sponsors; and WebMD for live-streaming the event on their website at www.webmd.com/researchforum.

On the funding front, Congress may soon consider a simple, short-term continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government at levels slightly lower than the current FY13 level (that means including the sequestration hit), lasting until mid-December. There are no riders or mandates that affect NIH — or any other agency for that matter. In the end, it’s likely that this CR will pass both chambers. But the fight to end sequestration continues, and an action opportunity may present itself with discussions spurred by the debt limit. We are planning our advocacy accordingly and will keep you in the loop.

Finally, I’d like to extend warm congratulations to the 2013 Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation award winners. These impressive scientists and philanthropists have worked tirelessly to advance basic and clinical medical research and ensure that research reaches those in need. These prestigious awards are well-deserved.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

Research Australia 2013 national public opinion poll

RAustralia2Research Australia has released its 2013 public opinion poll which reveals strong support for funding health and medical research. The findings provide an interesting backdrop for the country’s parliamentary elections this year.  Research Australia asked respondents their views on what priorities the Federal Government should be focusing on over the next 2 – 3 years.  Three significant health issues ranked high in the results: improving the hospital and healthcare systems, more funding for health and medical research and increasing funding and programs for preventative healthcare. Australians value a wide range of research, from basic research resulting in new discoveries, to translational research, which turns new discoveries into treatments, devices, policies and new practices. In fact, 59% of Australians see health and medical research as part of the solution to rising health care costs compared to 83% of Americans who believe medical research is important to reducing health care costs in a December 2012 poll commissioned by Research!America. Most of the findings in the Research Australia poll are consistent with the opinions of Americans regarding the importance of health and medical research in improving the health care system, addressing health and economic challenges and sharing personal health data. Nearly 80% of Australians said they’re willing to share their personal health records for research purposes while 66% of Americans said they were willing to do so in the December Research!America poll.  But the percentage rose in a May 2013 poll – 73% of Americans said they’re willing to share personal health information to advance research assuming appropriate privacy protections are in place.  Read more of Research Australia’s public opinion poll here. Continue reading →

John Eng Named Second Golden Goose Award Recipient for 2013

John Eng, MD, was recently named as the latest winner of the Golden Goose Awards. Eng is the second winner announced in 2013, and others will be named in the coming weeks. The Golden Goose Award was created last year to celebrate researchers whose seemingly odd or obscure federally funded research turned out to have a significant, positive impact on society.

Eng, a one-time researcher with the Veterans Administration in New York City, discovered that the venom contained in the bite of a Gila monster — a lizard native to the southwest U.S. and northwest Mexico — had components that could aid diabetics. His research was funded by the VA and built on previous studies funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Soon after, Eng purchased a booth at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association, a Research!America member, touting his discovery. He caught the attention of a then-small biotech, Amylin Pharmaceuticals. Amylin developed the discovery into a drug that won approval from the Food and Drug Administration in 2005. Since then, the drug — Byetta — has proven effective at helping diabetics moderate their blood sugar. Continue reading →

The Seattle Forum on Science Ethics & Policy

Current FOSEP leaders: Renee Agatsuma, Cyan James, Bish Paul, Abigail G. Schindler, PhD, Corey Snelson, PhD, Christopher Terai. (James and Schindler are the main authors)

FOSEP logoFounded by Melanie Roberts in 2004, the Seattle Forum on Science Ethics and Policy (FOSEP) brings distinguished speakers to campus, builds community science literacy, and trains future leaders in science policy and advocacy. While there can be a dearth of opportunities at the university level to educate scientists in policy, advocacy, and communication, FOSEP aims to explore the intersection of science and society and to educate its members to become future leaders and innovators. At FOSEP we provide unique leadership opportunities for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and support developing leaders in learning to better communicate advances in science and technology at the University of Washington and its partner institutions.

FOSEP-led discussions and lectures are a place where students, professionals, and community members of all levels can exchange views on issues as diverse as food policy, health care, and astronomy. Sequestration and continued budget cuts to federal research funding are an increasing concern among FOSEP participants. In response, we have held discussion groups regarding sequestration and science funding, have encouraged our 300+ members to contact their elected officials, and have allied FOSEP leaders with ASBMB and ASPET’s science policy and advocacy activities. Continue reading →

Cuts to NIH research squeezes young scientists out

Op-ed by Abigail Schindler, PhD, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and co-leader of the Seattle Forum on Science Ethics and Policy published in The Seattle Times.

Abigail1When I think about not being a scientist anymore my heart hurts. But sadly, due to continued budget cuts to biomedical research, within the next few years that is most likely exactly what I will be — no longer a scientist, no longer a researcher searching for cures for disease.

And I am not alone. The number of young scientists being forced out of basic biomedical research in the United States is increasing at an alarming rate, and when this next generation of scientists leaves, it is not coming back.

Like me, these are early career scientists trained in the United States by U.S. tax dollars. We are scientists whose life goal has been to one day have our own research program at an academic institution committed to the search for breakthroughs and cures. Yet because of these budget cuts, catchphrases such as the “brain drain” are proving true. This is a bad omen for U.S. global leadership in biomedical research and the future health and wellness of our nation.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the nation’s premier biomedical research agency and the leading supporter of biomedical research in the world. Despite numerous public polls showing strong support among Americans for government funding of basic biomedical research, NIH’s budget was cut by $1.5 billion this year, or 5 percent, from $31 billion. Continue reading →

Wallace Coulter Named First 2013 Recipient of Golden Goose Award

Dr. Wallace H. Coulter

Dr. Wallace H. Coulter

Coulter. Medical diagnostics.

See a link?

Coulter is one-half of Beckman Coulter, a Research!America member and a company that boasts nearly $6 billion in market capitalization. And that half of a multi-billion-dollar, multinational company began with research on paint for the U.S. Navy.

Such unlikely beginnings are the reason that Wallace Coulter has been named the first recipient of the Golden Goose Award for 2013. More winners will be named during the coming months.

The press release announcing the award explains Coulter’s research: In his time away from working for various electronics companies in the 1940s, Coulter built a lab in his garage and earned a grant from the Office of Naval Research. His task was to standardize the solid particles in the paint the Navy was using on its warships; but to do that, he first had to identify the reasons for inconsistencies among the paints.

He developed a device that would help him count the number of particles in a given volume of paint. Comparing different colors and batches would help him understand how to standardize. Continue reading →

Canada’s Research Funding Also Facing Cut Backs

Alan I. Leshner, PhD

Alan I. Leshner, PhD

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

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

Report Highlights Need for More R&D Funding for Neglected Diseases

On December 3, Policy Cures released its fifth annual G-FINDER report, a comprehensive survey of funding for research and development for neglected diseases. The report tracks global public, private and philanthropic investments into R&D for 31 diseases, including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and NTDs.  In positive news, this year’s report shows that total funding has actually increased by $443 million since 2007.

The report demonstrates that government funding, which accounts for over two-thirds of all investment, is increasingly going toward basic academic research, rather than product development. Research!America believes it is vital that the entire research pipeline be fully funded. Basic research will help us understand the best ways to tackle these neglected diseases and give us a better understanding of disease and the human body.  However, we also need robust funding for the development of urgently needed tools like drugs, vaccines and diagnostics. This urgency is worsened by the fact that private and philanthropic investments in product development for NTDs have also decreased.

Because NTDs disproportionately affect the “bottom billion” or individuals earning less than $1.25 per day, there is essentially no market demand for new NTD tools, so the private sector is unlikely to fund these projects. Dr. Moran, director of Policy Cures, believes that governments must step up to the plate, saying that “if [governments] want products for neglected diseases, they must fund product development as well as basic research.”

-Morgan McCloskey, global health intern