Tag Archives: Elias Zerhouni

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Don’t Settle for the “New Normal”

Dear Research Advocate,

Yesterday, the House passed a budget for the remainder of the fiscal year that includes this year’s cuts from sequestration along with an additional one percent across-the-board cut.  The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration, where we are likely to see higher funding levels than the House version, but with sequestration still in place. Congress seems anxious to avoid the brinksmanship and the government shutdown threats that have characterized past debates. While the less rancorous environment surrounding the CR is a welcome change, the complacency around sequestration is not.  As research advocates, we cannot let these cuts stand.

Sequestration isn’t a one-year cut, it is ten years worth of cuts, none of which are evidence-based.  We may be looking at the early stages of an elusive “grand bargain” as the president meets with Republican senators to discuss tax and entitlement reform – two key pieces for solving the deficit puzzle. Eliminating sequestration must be part of that bargain. In addition, we must ensure that funding for biomedical and health research, including the resources FDA needs to do its job, are assigned a high priority in fiscal year 2014. That should be reflected in the budget resolution and obviously in the FY 2014 funding bill.

None of this will be easy. Working together, advocates have raised the profile of medical research with policymakers and the media. We need to turn the volume up louder yet on it, while cultivating more champions in Congress.  Continuing to engage the media is part of that equation.  Some of the largest news outlets in the country including Fox News, NBC, and CBS, and a number that are new to our issue including Al Jazeera quoted Research!America when writing about sequestration’s impact on science. The Economist published a thoughtful piece about how cutting American health research will harm the world. Industry is adding its voice with an op-ed in Forbes coauthored by three legendary executives, including Research!America board member and former NIH director, Dr. Elias Zerhouni, Marc Tessier-Lavigne of The Rockefeller University and P. Roy Vagelos, Chairman of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. I also want to highlight a letter that Dr. Herb Pardes, Executive Vice Chairman at New York Presbyterian and Research!America board member, sent to the President.  He captures the very themes that will anchor our advocacy going forward.

At the same time as policymakers were cutting federally funded research dollars, researchers were delivering another astonishing breakthrough – the real possibility of a functional cure for HIV. This remarkable achievement, bringing us a step closer to a world free from the scourge of HIV/AIDS, would not have been possible were it not for NIH funding that supported the research and development of anti-retroviral drugs. The CDC is also in the news, with troubling warnings about the spread of “nightmare bacteria” – germs that can be deadly because they are resistant to traditional medicines.  As CDC works to track and halt the spread of these germs and fulfill the numerous other public health functions for which they are responsible, the agency is not only contending with sequestration. Over the past several years, CDC has been subject to some of the deepest cuts of any health agency. Our Nation is fast approaching a tipping point.  Are public health and safety and the progress borne of medical innovation priorities, or not?

As many of you already know our annual events are coming up next week! Please join us for the Annual Meeting (free of charge to members) to hear remarks from Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA), a freshman member of Congress who is already championing research, and also John Crowley, CEO of Amicus Therapeutics. I hope to see you all at our Annual Advocacy Awards Dinner later that evening – seats are selling fast, but still available.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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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