Tag Archives: Children’s National Medical Center

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: After sequestration, will research be protected in the budget battles?

Dear Research Advocate,

To say that the attention paid to sequestration is extraordinary is to understate the case, but there has not been enough public outcry to force meaningful congressional action. It is highly unlikely that a rabbit will be pulled out of a hat between now and 11:59 p.m. tomorrow night. Damage will be done, and meanwhile the political playing field switches to a new month and new, related and ever-deepening crises. Possibly the only good news is that the media has ratcheted up coverage of the impact of sequestration on medical research, with stories about “cuts on top of cuts on top of cuts,” in the words of Eric Hoffman of Children’s National Medical Center, one of many who have spoken out. Former NIH Director and Research!America Board member Dr. Elias Zerhouni of Sanofi described sequestration as “impact[ing] science for generations to come.” FASEB, among many groups working to keep the story alive, has released state data, detailing NIH grant funding cuts that amount to more than $1.2 billion in lost research dollars. The Baltimore Sun recently ran a story highlighting how cuts may drive researchers overseas, with quotes from Research!America Board member and Nobel laureate Dr. Carol Grieder. Concern about global competitiveness is confirmed by a new Research!America poll of small business leaders, with other findings of note including two-thirds saying that federally funded basic research is important to private sector innovation. We have seen unprecedented attention to this data on Facebook, generating nearly 4,000 views in just one day. Write your representatives and use the poll data to convey the strong base of support for research — and the importance of making it a priority.

All advocates must be on alert for the budget battles of March, including funding for the remainder of the current fiscal year, which ends September 30, as well as the first salvos of the next fiscal year budget (2014). Three budgets will be presented – president, House and Senate. The questions are: Will the impact of sequestration be blunted during budget negotiations, and will research for health be a priority? We must all continue to work for that outcome, as individuals and as a community.

A Financial Times op-ed by Research!America member and MIT President Dr. Rafael Reif and Craig Barrett, former chairman of Intel, provides a concise and articulate summary of the consequences of cutting science — or, said another way, failing to prioritize it. They point out that the U.S. has an economic growth problem. They underscore the importance of investing in research and innovation as the way to reverse the downward trajectory of U.S. ranking in terms of R&D as a percentage of GDP among OECD countries and to return us to the level of national prosperity that thrives on the transformational ideas of young scientists. Other countries are using our playbook for economic growth; why aren’t we?

The NIH has released an operating plan should sequestration take effect. For the remainder of the current fiscal year, the NIH will likely reduce funding levels for continuing grants and will make fewer competing awards. All Institutes and Centers will be subject to a budget reduction, with each institute or center director having discretion over which programs to prioritize. The NSF has also released a statement; the agency will reduce the number of new grants in FY13 by 1,000 due to sequestration. All continuing FY13 grants will be awarded and existing grants will not be reduced.

Lastly, we mourn the loss of Research!America’s Honorary Director Dr. C. Everett Koop, a charismatic Surgeon General who forcefully called attention to our nation’s major health threats. He was a magnificent champion of research. His legacy is second to none. Read our statement here.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: SOTU and – now what??

Dear Research Advocate,

Setting a breathtaking goal for Congress and the nation, the president called for returning our nation to levels of R&D investment not seen since the height of the space race in his State of the Union address Tuesday evening. He spoke of the potential to defeat Alzheimer’s and to assure an “AIDS-free generation”; and he used the human genome project to illustrate the economic as well as human return on taxpayer investment in research. We were thrilled that the president listed medical research among the nation’s top priorities – along with defense, education and energy – right at the beginning of his speech, when he described the devastating damage that sequestration would do to the things the nation values most. This is, I think, an indication that the hard work of the research advocacy community in driving our research-as-a-priority message is paying off, just as we saw in media coverage of the Save Research advocacy campaign we launched after the election with many of our partners in advocacy. Our voices are being heard! It is time to thank the president, and it’s also time to urge Congress to take action. We must strongly advocate avoiding any proposal that threatens U.S. biomedical innovation, public or private sector-driven. See highlights of the science portions of the president’s speech and our press statement.

Speaking, as the president did, of Alzheimer’s, did you know that the annual cost of Alzheimer’s is $200 billion? By 2050, that number is expected to rocket to $1 trillion! To address the looming threat of across-the-board funding cuts, USAgainstAlzheimers has launched a major advocacy push, sending thousands of letters to Congress, leading a sign-on letter of researchers, and running a full-page ad in Roll Call.

As pointed out by columnist Robert McCartney in The Washington Post, television and radio this morning, biomedical research will be hurt by sequestration as much as defense, right here in the National Capital Area. He quoted NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins extensively and also cited Children’s National Medical Center’s Dr. Eric Hoffman, whose important work on muscular dystrophy has stalled as NIH has held back funding until decisions are made by Congress. Meanwhile, patients are waiting. The idea that Dr. Hoffman’s work – and all of medical research, as well as education, energy and defense and much more – is considered “discretionary” is more than revealing, it is unacceptable to Americans.

Fighting to avoid sequestration, the defense and non-defense communities held a joint event this week to highlight the dangers posed by sequestration, as reported in CQ Roll Call. Leaders from the aerospace industry along with members of the university, health, and science community released new estimates demonstrating that sequestration could rob the American economy of 2 million jobs, causing another recession. Also bringing the message home, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) held a Q&A session with federal workers at the NIH, saying that sequestration would lead to the loss of 100,000 jobs, considering both Bethesda-based NIH employees and businesses that work with them.

Have you brought the message home, so that your representative and senators are hearing it and will act? We can help – contact your representatives and email our science policy director, Max G. Bronstein, to learn about other ways boost your engagement. Only 15 days until the March 1st sequestration deadline.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley