Tag Archives: BRAIN Initiative

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: What’s wrong with this picture?

Dear Research Advocate:

According to our new national public opinion poll on clinical trials and related topics, most Americans are willing to share their personal health data to advance research, and 72% would be willing to participate in a clinical trial if recommended by their doctor. This complements what we know from other polling, i.e. that Americans want research to proceed at a pace of scientific opportunity. Yet we continue to lose ground in the gridlocked political environment, which, by its inaction, is dashing the hopes of patients and families anxious for new therapies and cures. What’s wrong with this picture?

It isn’t as though research hasn’t yielded both societal and economic benefits! United for Medical Research (UMR) and Battelle Technology Partnership Practice have released a report on the economic and transformative impact of the Human Genome Project, timed as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of its completion. This visionary project has resulted in wildly successful public-private partnerships, more than 4.3 million job-years of supported employment, and nearly $1 trillion in total economic impact since 1988.

The goals of the BRAIN Initiative have been compared to those of the Human Genome Project. Breakthroughs are so desperately needed to overcome Alzheimer’s and a plethora of other serious illnesses. In a recent Bloomberg View article, columnist Al Hunt points out the folly of starving research while we are faced with such major health challenges. Continue reading →

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A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: #curesnotcuts

Dear Research Advocate:

I invite you to join me in speaking out during the Memorial Day congressional recess (May 27-31) as part of a social media campaign using the hashtag #curesnotcuts. Our goal is to continue to position research and innovation to improve health where it belongs: as a fundamental national priority that Americans can count on because their elected representatives rank it so highly. In our social media campaign, each day of the recess has a specific theme that can be customized with your information and patient/researcher stories. We have made it easy to get involved: click here to see sample social media messages, a list of selected congressional offices and their Twitter handles, and other resources. Also during Memorial Day recess: the first of several opportunities to participate in open meetings NIH is holding as planning of the BRAIN Initiative goes forward. You can participate in person or by phone. Learn more here.

The House Appropriations Committee has released its 302(b) allocations, setting funding levels for all 12 subcommittees. In a clear calculation that other appropriations bills can be passed at flat or even increased funding levels, one was singled out to absorb the lion’s share of the pain. The Labor-HHS subcommittee, which funds NIH, CDC and AHRQ, was allocated funding 18.6% below its final FY13 number — which already included the FY13 sequestration cut! It is estimated that if this allocation were signed into law, $5.38 billion would be cut from NIH and more than $1 billion from the CDC. While, at the end of the day, a cut of that magnitude is unlikely, the fact that it is even being suggested is of great concern. Think about the classic pattern of “splitting the difference” between House and Senate budgets: If an extremely low number is used by the House, any “compromise” could result in a very steep cut. Research!America is part of a large coalition of more than 900 health, education and workforce training organizations that has sent a letter expressing opposition to the proposed cuts. Please draw on the text to bang the drum loudly on this point to your elected officials! (The committee overseeing FDA fell within “standard” funding allocation levels, but “standard” does not mean adequate. Remember that all federal funding is subject to sequestration, and even without sequestration FDA is grossly underfunded today, given the breadth and complexity of its critical mission.) Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: This is your BRAIN on research

Dear Research Advocate,

On Tuesday, the president announced a new $100 million brain research initiative (BRAIN) that will involve NSF, NIH and DARPA and include support from a number of independent research institutes and private foundations. The fact that the White House has announced this “moonshot” is an important sign that research is securing its rightful role as a top national priority, which is critical to our collective goal of eliminating sequestration and aligning research funding with scientific opportunity. The president will include BRAIN in his FY14 budget, which will be released April 10.

In CQ, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) expressed support for the BRAIN initiative but commented that it should be funded by redirecting money from social and political science programs, a sentiment echoed in a statement from Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) office. Social and political science programs are a critical piece of our nation’s research portfolio. We are cosponsoring a Hill briefing on this topic Friday — Economics Research: Saving Lives and Money. Leader Cantor has also announced a new bill that would increase NIH funding by $200 million in order to support new research that may include pediatric diseases like autism, paying for it by redirecting public funding away from presidential campaigns.

Sequestration remains a topic generating huge interest in the media. Our community is succeeding in making sure the impact of sequestration on science is part of the conversation. USA Today ran an article describing how reduced funding and success rates for basic research is leading young researchers away from careers in academic science. The Huffington Post published a thought-provoking op-ed co-authored by Drs. Neal Lane and Peter Hotez at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine, respectively. They discuss the importance of creating a cadre of scientist-advocates or “civic-scientists” in order to engage with the public and policy makers. In The Hill, Dr. Leroy Hood, president of the Institute for Systems Biology, describes how medical breakthroughs can help solve the budget crisis through a new era of P4 medicine, which could deliver lifesaving cures and treatments to lower health care spending while powering our economy. PBS’ “NewsHour” and MSNBC’s Chris Hayes covered sequestration’s impact on science last evening and on their websites. Local media are highlighting how sequestration could impact individual institutions, such as this article illustrating the impact on front-line medical research. For those of you at institutions that have not as yet been covered by the media, now is the time to write an op-ed or reach out to your local newspaper. We can help; just ask.

The next big statement the research community will be making about the importance of research will be the Rally for Medical Research on April 8. I hope to see you there! Our board chair, former Congressman John Porter, will be among the many research champions speaking out  at the event sponsored by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). We are working to continue the momentum of the Rally so that the value of bringing together so many organizations (175 and counting) can be leveraged on a continuing basis.

Watch for our release of a new poll in conjunction with a panel discussion to be held on Capitol Hill, Conquering Pain & Fighting Addiction, on April 8 at 4 p.m. Conquering chronic pain without fear of addiction is a goal research can help address. These are topics that are underappreciated even as they are highly charged, causing great anguish as well as great suffering.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

President Obama announces BRAIN Initiative

President Barack Obama unveiled the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative on Tuesday. Described in a White House press release as one of the administration’s “Grand Challenges,” the goal of the initiative is to bring private and public sector research together to accelerate the development and application of technology and research into the function of complex neural networks. President Obama laid the ground work for today’s announcement during his State of the Union address in January, calling for an increased investment in research to achieve “a level of research and development not seen since the height of the space race.” Continue reading →