Tag Archives: Bill Frist

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

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Bipartisan Agreement: Federal Research for HIV/AIDS Pays Off

Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE)

Looking back on last week’s AIDS2012 Conference, it is easy to see the impact that Washington, DC, and the proximity to Congress had on the tone of the discussion. Throughout the week-long conference, many of the events, panels, workshops and sessions highlighted the role of federal funding for global health research and development, as well as the impact of actions by Congress on the future of HIV/AIDS research. At Wednesday’s session, “The U.S. Congress and the Global AIDS Epidemic,” former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist led a conversation with Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), showcasing the past and future role of Congress in the effort to end HIV/AIDS.

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY)

During his tenure in the Senate, Frist played an important role in securing increased funding for global health initiatives. Throughout the panel discussion, the importance of bipartisan support and the value of research and development were repeated as key themes. As Lee pointed out, having AIDS2012 in DC has “helped to shed a global spotlight on a domestic epidemic,” noting that areas of the U.S. have HIV rates comparable to areas of sub-Saharan Africa. Washington, DC, itself is one example. Lee went on to note that in order to find a cure, resources and support for PEPFAR, the Global Fund and U.S. global health programs are vital.

The Honorable Bill Frist

Rubio noted that he has been pleasantly surprised by the bipartisan support he has seen in Congress concerning global health issues and emphasized that funding for global health and international development is not the cause of the budget deficit. Despite the perception of the public that the number is much higher, foreign aid comprises less than 1% of the U.S. budget.

“If you zeroed out foreign aid,” Rubio said, “it would do nothing for the debt, but it would be devastating not just for the world, but for America’s role in it.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)

Concluding that research and development is the way to maintain support and move the HIV/AIDS field forward, Rubio emphasized the importance of developing more affordable, more effective medications, treatments and potential cures.

Following up on this theme, Coons called for continued support and investment in order to “innovate and cure our way out of this,” specifically pointing to vaccines as the future in HIV/AIDS research.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Capping off the conversation with some success stories from the field, Frist and Enzi recalled one of their first trips to Africa and the value of seeing firsthand the impact that antiretrovirals were having on the ground. Pointing to meetings with researchers on this trip, both Enzi and Frist reiterated the importance of investment in research in order to truly make a difference.

The panel discussion was interrupted by individuals advocating for increased rights for sex workers and the repeal of PEPFAR’s anti-prostitution funding restrictions. Regardless of one’s perspective on the impact of this disruption, it reinforces the strength of our nation’s democratic system and in no way compromised the strength of the panelists’ positive message about the importance of the federal role in advancing global health.

Tell your Member of Congress that research to combat HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria, neglected tropical diseases and other health threats here and abroad is an economic and humanitarian imperative by visiting our website.