Tag Archives: FASEB

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Time to be honest with ourselves

Dear Research Advocate:

This week’s CDC announcement of the worst-case Ebola scenario is staggering. Saying, “Let’s be honest with ourselves …” President Obama addressed the UN this morning on the escalating threat posed by Ebola, urging world leaders to work together to address this truly global crisis. The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) program, which received additional funding for Ebola drug development as part of the recently passed continuing resolution (CR), is a terrific example of how the public and private sectors can work together to develop drugs for national and global health threats like Ebola. BARDA provides market incentives so that private sector innovators can work on noncommercial emergencies. It’s a cost-effective strategy since it precludes the need for government to build drug development capacity the private sector already has, and it’s a good reminder that medical and health research is not about government funding, academic research, or private sector R&D. It’s about all of these things and all of us, working together to save lives.

Let’s be honest with ourselves about something else: policies that cripple private sector investment in research are stifling science.  One such policy involves the research and development (R&D) tax credit, which – despite historical bipartisan support – expired at the end of 2013 and has not been reinstated. Businesses of all sizes across a wide swath of scientific sectors rely on predictable, annual extensions of this tax credit (not that annual extensions are ideal; Congress would also be wise to finally make this credit permanent). Please consider sending a message to your representatives about the importance of reinstating and enhancing the R&D tax credit. Here are two good resources, one nationwide quantitative analysis from the National Association of Manufacturers and one qualitative account of the effects on businesses in Pennsylvania. Members of Congress must work together and quickly upon their return to Washington after the election to not only reinstate the R&D tax credit, but to enhance its reach and effectiveness. And they must pass an appropriations package that recommits to scientific innovation. Note I use the word “must,” not “should.”  When one assumes the role of leader, displaying leadership should not be an option.

And let’s be honest that we are under-investing in our federal research agencies. Determined to alter this state of affairs, Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY-26), along with Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03), recently introduced the Accelerating Biomedical Research Act in the House. The congressman is using some of his district work period/campaigning season to tour institutions that receive NIH funding in his district. If only more incumbents and challengers followed his example!  Rather than despairing that there aren’t more like Mr. Higgins, now is the time to work toward the day that there will be! Candidates who hear voters like you speak passionately now about the importance of advancing medical progress are more likely to become champions for research when they enter Congress next January. Personal stories about why research matters in your life and in your community make for some of the most persuasive advocacy tools.

Let’s be honest that along with personal stories, data truly is important (my advice: tell your story first, after that, add data). Consider the new easy-to-use district-level federal research funding fact sheets from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). These local, by-the-numbers summaries provide information about the number of grants received in nearly 400 congressional districts from the NIH, NSF, DOE Office of Science, and Agriculture and Food Research Initiative in the Department of Agriculture and are useful additions when making your case for research.  We urge you to share this data as well as your commitment to voter education with five of your friends and family!  Join us in the “5 this Fall” campaign on social media.

Final note of honesty about social media … it works! Think “Ice Bucket Challenge” and think about the new ACT for NIH campaign, which is using “selfies” as a way to remind voters and policymakers that research is for everyone, leading to better lives for ourselves, our friends and our loved ones. Reaching an ever-expanding audience via social media is critical. I hope you’ll join Act for NIH by sharing a selfie on social media with the hashtag #ACT4NIH.

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Snow — not the debt limit — shuts down the government

Dear Research Advocate,

Ironically, the government is closed down today. But that’s due to a major snowstorm, not because of failure to agree on increasing the debt limit! Agreeing to increase the debt limit is an encouraging sign that this Congress, weighed down as it is by ideological and political differences, and with record- low approval rankings from the public, can get its job done! Our job is to be sure research is a top priority in this election year — spoken of with conviction by all candidates and by the media and others who influence them.

Standing tall among Members of Congress who champion science are the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations’ Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies subcommittee, Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-VA-10) and Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA-02). At our upcoming March 12 Advocacy Awards dinner, Research!America will honor Reps. Wolf and Fattah with the Edwin C. Whitehead Award for Medical Research Advocacy, saluting their tireless efforts to champion policies that promote federal and private sector medical research and innovation. Be sure to join us!

Robert Samuelson observes in The Washington Post that Congress, whether by action or inaction, is making too many decisions “on the sly,” without real public awareness or comprehension. Samuelson says that in so doing Congress is compromising priorities like defense and medical research while simultaneously failing to address tax and entitlement reform. I think it is telling that he chose to identify the loss of purchasing power by the NIH as one of three critical problems created as our elected representatives fail to find a clear path through the ideological storm. One of these days they will make those major decisions, and that’s when it will pay off that research has been well-positioned as a top national priority. We must continue to make the case and make it forcefully.

Even as we work to keep our issue in the forefront of big-picture policy change, we must at the same time make our case via the appropriations process, which is proceeding, for the first time in years, according to ‘regular order.’ Right now, in FY14, funding for NIH is lower than in FY12 (and in constant dollars is lower than FY03!) — a shortfall that makes absolutely no sense if the goal is to serve the best interests of America and Americans. Other science agencies are underfunded as well, and the policy environment for private sector research and innovation is not compatible with our nation’s goals of global leadership. As you prepare to pound the pavement and take to social media to make the case to appropriators for research, take inspiration and new data from the following:

And this: According to the National Retail Federation, Americans are expected to spend $17.3 billion in celebration of Valentine’s Day. That amount would fund the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute for more than five years! We are a wealthy nation; we can well afford to spend more on the future of health than we currently are.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Risky business

Dear Research Advocate:

What does the current political impasse in Washington have in common with deadly or disabling diseases? They will not cure themselves, and the harm escalates until the “patient” gets expert treatment. There is no place for miracle cures or wishful thinking. The solution isn’t what a given individual or party wants it to be, it’s what solves the problem. Right now, it’s by no means clear what or who will solve the problems — which now include the debt ceiling as well as the lack of funding to run the government. Fasten your seat belts for more turbulence between now and October 17th.

You may have heard that the House passed a bill yesterday to fund NIH, along with several other stand-alone appropriation bills (funding it at an unacceptably low level, I might add — below FY12 levels). Beyond the fact that this piecemeal, slow-walking avoidance tactic of finding a solution to the government shutdown is dead on arrival in the Senate and the White House, this “Sophie’s Choice,” cherry-picking approach to better health has no place in a functioning research and innovation ecosystem, and we spoke out against it. That said, it was gratifying that NIH was singled out as publicly popular and good to see the possibility of new champions emerging who recognize the importance of NIH funding during the floor debate on the bill. But make no mistake, had we and other advocates supported this ill-conceived measure, we would have been supporting the decline of science in this nation. Continue reading →

Advocacy Opportunities at 40,000 Feet

By William (Bill) R. Brinkley, Ph.D., TAMEST’s 2012 President

Brinkley 2012 PresidentSometimes you find luck sitting by your side at the most opportune of moments.  For example, what would you do if you suddenly found yourself seated next to a key member of the U.S. Congress on a two and a half hour flight to Washington, D.C.?  Be prepared, it could happen to you!

If you are a frequent traveler like me, you probably prefer to read, daydream or sleep on most flights.  But what would you do if you suddenly recognized that your seat mate was a VIP—say, a key member of the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives?  You might recognize it as a terrific opportunity to put in a good word for particular issues of great importance to you or society.  Say for instance, an increase in funding for biomedical research or pending legislation for another cause that might impact your future and that of your co-workers and colleagues.

This actually happened to me a few years ago as a biomedical researcher and president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) advocating for a campaign to double the funding of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).   At the time, I was traveling to Washington, D.C. frequently to visit key members of the legislature to encourage support for the “doubling” as it came to be known.  One key member of the House of Representatives, Congressman Tom DeLay was thought to be a hopeless holdout—but a key individual to get on our side.  As the Majority Whip, DeLay earned the nickname “The Hammer” for his enforcement of party discipline in close votes and his reputation for wreaking political vengeance on opponents. After making numerous unsuccessful attempts to get an audience with DeLay, I finally gave up! Continue reading →

What does sequestration mean for biomedical and health research?

We’ve heard plenty in the media about sequestration’s impact to federal agencies including furloughs and short-lived—delays at airports, but how is the biomedical research community dealing with the across-the-board cuts? The word “furlough” is something you would never hear in a research lab; time-sensitive research experiments cannot simply be put on hold. So how will the shortfall in budgets be met?  Many researchers and universities are making tough decisions that could delay promising studies and result in layoffs.

Below are resources with more details about sequestration’s impact to science and the economy. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: A bad year to have a good idea?

Dear Research Advocate,

“2013 is a bad year to have a good idea,” was the bleak statement Laura Niedernhofer, MD, PhD, made about the impact of sequestration in a recent FASEB report. None of us want this year, or this country, to be a bad starting point for good ideas … but that’s what’s at stake. Think about telling someone with a serious illness that this isn’t a good year, or a good decade, for research. Think about telling them that from here on out, it may always be a bad year for a good idea.

Is there hope for turning this around? We have bipartisan support and we have champions; that we need more is a reality, but by no means an impossibility. Cancer research advocates gathered last evening to honor Congresswoman DeLauro (D-CT-03) and Senator Shelby (R-AL). Several other Members of Congress gave inspiring remarks, with an emphasis on adopting a positive, can-do approach, focusing on the local impact of research and stressing the profound and enduring consequences of backtracking. They counseled advocates, “Don’t take no for an answer!” In yesterday’s NIH appropriations hearing, Chairwoman Mikulski (D-MD) vowed to “work her earrings off” to make sure the agency gets the funding it needs. Strong bipartisan support for research was the byword for the session. Continue reading →

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

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Dying to know more…

Dear Research Advocate,

The first presidential debate gave us little to go on regarding research for health. Americans are dying to know more – many, quite literally dying – about what either presidential candidate would do to speed up medical progress in the face of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS and the host of other disabling and deadly health threats that breed suffering, compromise independence and drive spiraling health care costs. Add to that the pivotal role medical innovation plays in our economy, and Americans absolutely deserve to know whether candidates will champion or shortchange it. All of us must say to candidates: Tell us what you will do, share your views – candidates for president and Congress alike. Take 30 seconds to ask your candidates to speak out and then help more by sharing this alert.

Another issue that the candidates failed to adequately address in last night’s debate was sequestration, and that’s why we must continue to speak up. If more of us get involved we can shift the halt-the-sequester momentum into high gear – check out the following articles and then write your own op-ed: Athens (GA) Banner-HeraldMontgomery Advertiser. The Los Angeles Times highlighted a new AAAS report on the impact of sequestration (read here). The report provides estimates of just how much states stand to lose under sequestration, with California alone being deprived of over $11 billion in R&D funding over a 5-year period! How much does your state stand to lose? Find out via FASEB’s outstanding series of new fact sheets that illustrate the importance and impact of NIH funding close to home. Take a moment to find the fact sheet for your state or district and use this information in your advocacy efforts.

For years, our public polling has shown that Americans strongly support incentives for companies that are investing in R&D – investments that create jobs and foster innovation. An article recently published in The Atlantic drives this point home, calling on policy makers to not only expand the R&D tax credit but to make it permanent. This is a common-sense policy solution that would enhance our competitiveness at a time when other nations are boosting investment in research and creating new incentives to encourage the private sector to invest. We need to step up, or we will be left behind.

And, speaking of the global nature of science as well as economic interdependence, we are eager to hear the announcements of the Nobel Prizes, starting this coming Monday. Here’s a suggestion: Take the opportunity of the announcements to make a phone call, send an email or write a letter to the editor to call attention to the importance of maintaining strong support of science in this country. Doing so could prove critical in reversing the perception among Capitol Hill staffers that few members of the science community are engaged in the public policy conversation – volume matters and that means every one of us needs to step up.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: New Poll – Likely Voters Say to Congress: Stay in Session, Avoid Taking Us Over the Fiscal Cliff

Dear Research Advocate,

To call attention to the unintended consequences of the sequester, we held a press briefing today in partnership with United for Medical Research. Two Members of Congress who are still in town, Reps. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Brian Bilbray (R-CA), spoke about the high priority the nation must place on NIH and about the usefulness of data from a new national public opinion poll showing that 51% of Americans say that across-the-board cuts are not the right way to reduce the deficit. To see more poll results for use in your advocacy, click here. Other speakers this morning spoke about what’s at stake for everyone who cares about the research enterprise: patient hopes for cures delayed; industries unable to create new jobs and drive innovation in frustration about U.S. policies and lack of predictability; young scientists becoming discouraged and accepting offers to work in other countries – countries that have made research a clear priority. All of this further burdens our national deficit – we need research to combat the rising cost of health care by delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s and a host of other diseases. As Rep. Markey said, it will take high energy and coordination to get our message of research as a priority heard during the lame-duck session. You will be hearing more from us about how to assure that happens, but in the meantime, don’t forget that there is an important election going on (see below).

First a quick recap of what sequestration means, according to a new OMB report. Most agencies would be hit with an 8.2% cut – NIH alone would lose $2.5 billion in 2013! It is still unclear what level of discretion agency heads would have in carrying out these cuts. Losses at the CDC would be $464 million, the FDA would lose $318 million, and the NSF would be cut by $577 million. See our new one-pager with the latest data.

There is an additional dimension to the FDA cut that should be of significant concern to all advocates for medical progress. Part of the cut diverts industry-supplied user fees into deficit reduction. Those fees are paid by industry for the express purpose of ensuring FDA has the resources to review new medicines and medical devices on a timely basis. The precedent of playing bait and switch with user fees is a dangerous one, particularly since these fees are voluntary. Why should the drug and device industries agree to pay user fees in the future knowing that still more time will be lost in approvals – and patients will be forced to wait longer for new treatments and cures. We must work together to address it.

We all need to do our part to make sure the media is covering all the aspects of the threat of sequestration, making it more evident to all Americans just what is at stake. We’ve already seen National Journal release an article about our new polling data. The Atlantic released a story about how sequester would impact science budgets, citing another recent article from ScienceInsider. The Scientist also reported on the story, quoting Ellie Dehoney, our VP for policy and programs. This week, the Rochester (MN) Post-Bulletin reported how the cuts at NIH could impact the Mayo Clinic, a Research!America member. For those of you that may have contacts with local or national media, now is the time to let them know about the impact where you live.

We are only a month and half away from the election. We know from many of our members and partners that they are calling/writing/emailing campaigns to urge participation in the Your Candidates –Your Health voter education initiative. Please join the momentum and help drive the campaign … we don’t have much time left to make it clear to candidates that it isn’t only lobbyists and professional advocates (people like us at Research!America) who care about research and want them to talk about it. Every candidate should be hearing from hundreds of concerned stakeholders. Make sure you are in that number!

Demonstrations of the value of NIH and NSF research will soon be honored by Research!America member FASEB. Submit events, exhibits or web-based outreach that highlight the value that research agencies deliver and compete for a cash prize! For details, click here.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley