Tag Archives: heart disease

Statement by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on the Accelerate Biomedical Research Act

Research!America applauds Senator Tom Harkin for taking bold, decisive action to heal fissures in our nation’s research pipeline with legislation that will strengthen the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget over the next six years. The Accelerate Biomedical Research Act will establish a pathway for sustained growth in the NIH budget. That budget has remained virtually stagnant over the last decade, jeopardizing promising research to combat disease and deflating the aspirations of early career scientists. NIH-funded research fuels the development of lifesaving therapies and treatments, and creates opportunities for public-private partnerships to better understand Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease and other major health threats here and abroad.

Senator Harkin and other congressional leaders recognize the potential of innovative research, but it is Senator Harkin who is taking the lead at a time when too many elected officials appear to have taken their eyes off the ball with our global leadership in science and technology at risk. China and other countries are aggressively increasing their research and development investments, luring scientists to their shores and challenging our dominance in medical research and innovation. According to polling commissioned by Research!America, a majority of Americans are skeptical that the U.S. will maintain its pre-eminence in science by the year 2020, and many policy experts agree. We urge Congress to support the Accelerate Biomedical Research Act to improve the health of Americans and ensure our global competitiveness.

Statement by Research!America president and CEO Mary Woolley on President Obama’s State of the Union Speech

January 29, 2014

It’s heartening President Obama chose to emphasize in his speech the significance of federally funded basic research and the need to undo the damage that has been done to it in recent years with deep spending cuts. The president used language the science community epitomizes – he spoke of working for “breakthroughs” and a nation motivated by opportunity. But actions speak louder than words. Congress and the White House must treat research and innovation as the health and economic imperative it has always been and invest in expanding our nation’s research capacity. It bears on business and job creation in both the research and manufacturing sectors; it bears on our nation’s ability to slow or stop the progression of disabling, deadly and federal deficit-perpetuating diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer and heart disease; and most importantly, it bears on the quality of life for Americans now and in the future. Our elected officials must eliminate sequestration for good and support medical innovation at the level of scientific opportunity to ensure more breakthroughs in coming years.

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Take It From Tony: Investing in NIH Research Saves Lives

Excerpt of an op-ed by American Heart Association President Mariell Jessup, MD, published in the Huffington Post.

2013-09-13-8494_Retouchedsample_RedSweaterCountless songs, stories and poems pay tribute to the hurt we suffer from a “broken heart.” The anguish is all too real for the tens of millions of Americans who’ve experienced the pain that occurs when a heart truly fails.

My patient, Tony Costanza, is one such person. In 1981, when Tony was 55, he began having trouble breathing. His “huffing and puffing” finally forced him to see a cardiologist. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, a life-threatening condition in which a weakened heart can no longer pump oxygen-rich blood through the body. Patients experience fatigue from oxygen deprived muscles and breathing problems from congested lungs filled with the blood backing up behind the weak heart. Tony was put on medication and told to refrain from work and get plenty of rest. He describes the fretful days and sleepless nights that followed as “one of the most frightening periods in my life, where all I heard was my heart pounding hard in my chest.”

If current trends continue, there will soon be millions more people like Tony in the United States. A study released this spring by the American Heart Association concluded that the number of people with heart failure is projected to climb 46 percent from 5 million in 2012 to 8 million in 2030 as a consequence of our aging population. The costs to treat these Americans could more than double in the same period, from $31 billion to $70 billion. This would cost every taxpayer $244 annually to care for these patients. What can we as a nation do to help treat and “mend” these “broken” hearts? In my view, the best and only way forward is by finding new ways to treat and prevent heart failure, and this starts with the kinds of medical research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Read the full op-ed here.

Share Your Story: How You Can Fight for Tomorrow’s Medical Breakthroughs

By Endocrine Society President Teresa K. Woodruff, PhD

Teresa WoodruffThe sad stories flow in each day. A post-doctoral fellow gives up scientific research after 10 years of training. A cancer researcher faces a fruitless job search and expiring visa. The endocrinologist agonizes over letting a long-time lab employee go.

Hundreds of these tales are unfolding across the country as the National Institutes of Health struggles to stretch its dwindling budget. Because of sequestration, an NIH budget that barely kept pace with inflation through the 1990s and early 2000s was slashed by another $1.6 billion this fiscal year. If Congress cannot agree on a more balanced approach to budget cuts, another $6.7 billion in needed biomedical research funding will disappear in Fiscal Year 2014. The NIH funding cuts are nothing short of a disaster for biomedical science in the United States, as the Society journal Endocrinology’s Editor-in-Chief Andrea C. Gore observed in a recent editorial.

It is disheartening to think of the treatments that won’t be developed, the discoveries that won’t be made and the patients who will suffer as a result of Congress’ short-sighted funding decisions. As president of The Endocrine Society, I saw firsthand at the Society’s annual meeting ENDO 2013 just how many breakthroughs our researchers are making to ultimately improve the lives of people who have conditions like diabetes, thyroid disorders and cancer. Without biomedical research funding, promising scientific avenues won’t be explored and fewer new treatments will be available to patients in the years to come.

In my own lab at Northwestern University, we instituted a hiring freeze after our grant award was halved. Now we won’t be able to investigate some key questions, such as how endocrine-disrupting chemicals in our environment impact reproductive health.

But there are actions we as researchers and scientists can take to avert the worst effects of this crisis. Congress and the public need to know how much pain the sequester is causing by delaying breakthroughs in treating infertility, heart disease and metabolic disorders. Congress should reverse course. Take a moment to share your story with your Members of Congress, your hometown newspaper, or a health organization like The Endocrine Society, Research!America or United for Medical Research. By raising our voices as one, we can rewrite the story’s ending and protect our nation’s biomedical research legacy.

The sequester’s a public health hazard

Excerpt of an op-ed by columnist George F. Will, published in The Washington Post.

“The capacity to blunder slightly is the real marvel of DNA. Without this special attribute, we would still be anaerobic bacteria and there would be no music.”

— Lewis Thomasgeorge_will

The pedigree of human beings, Thomas wrote, probably traces to a single cell fertilized by a lightning bolt as the Earth was cooling. Fortunately, genetic “mistakes” — mutations — eventually made us. But they also have made illnesses. Almost all diseases arise from some combination of environmental exposures and genetic blunders in the working of DNA. Breast cancer is a family of genetic mutations.

The great secret of doctors, wrote Thomas — who was a physician, philosopher and head of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center — “is that most things get better by themselves; most things, in fact, are better in the morning.” But many things require intelligent interventions — cures. So, to see the federal government at its best, and sequester-driven spending cuts at their worst, visit the 322 acres where 25,000 people work for the National Institutes of Health.

This 60th anniversary of the Clinical Center, the NIH’s beating heart, is inspiriting and depressing: Public health is being enhanced — rapidly, yet unnecessarily slowly — by NIH-supported research here, and in hundreds of institutions across the country, into new drugs, devices and treatments. Yet much research proposed by extraordinarily talented physicians and scientists cannot proceed because the required funding is prevented by the intentional irrationality by which the sequester is administered. Continue reading →

A do-nothing Congress isn’t healthy

Op-ed by The Honorable John Edward Porter, Research!America Chair and former U.S. Representative (1980 – 2001) published in CNN.

John Edward PorterAt every congressional recess, the question remains: What has Congress accomplished to advance medical innovation, or for that matter any of our national priorities?

A ritual of leaving town with no meaningful action on pressing issues seems to have taken hold as lawmakers once again meet with voters in their districts. Indeed, much will happen during this break, but as elected officials hold yet another town hall meeting, Facebook or Twitter chat or public event, thousands will be diagnosed with cancer or get the dreaded confirmation from a physician that they or a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease. Thousands will suffer a heart attack or stroke, and thousands of parents will learn that their child has a rare disease.

Researchers are racing against the clock to identify a new gene or molecule that could lead to the next medical breakthrough and bring us closer to cures and new therapies to halt disease.

Time is of the essence in the scientific community, but unfortunately, our elected leaders continue to squander precious time in political, ideological battles that yield little or no results. Is this the Congress you elected? This is not the first elected body to tackle formidable challenges, but it may be the first that has failed miserably in addressing critical issues that will have short- and long-term implications for the health and well-being of Americans.

Spending bills to fund the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and other agencies in the next fiscal year remain in limbo as sequestration, across-the-board spending cuts enacted in March, tightens its grip on medical innovation. As a result of these mindless budget cuts, researchers are delaying or scrubbing promising studies. Institutions across the country have closed labs, reduced their work forces and implemented hiring freezes. Young scientists are rethinking their career paths or moving abroad to countries that have accelerated investments in research. Continue reading →

Cuts to NIH research squeezes young scientists out

Op-ed by Abigail Schindler, PhD, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and co-leader of the Seattle Forum on Science Ethics and Policy published in The Seattle Times.

Abigail1When I think about not being a scientist anymore my heart hurts. But sadly, due to continued budget cuts to biomedical research, within the next few years that is most likely exactly what I will be — no longer a scientist, no longer a researcher searching for cures for disease.

And I am not alone. The number of young scientists being forced out of basic biomedical research in the United States is increasing at an alarming rate, and when this next generation of scientists leaves, it is not coming back.

Like me, these are early career scientists trained in the United States by U.S. tax dollars. We are scientists whose life goal has been to one day have our own research program at an academic institution committed to the search for breakthroughs and cures. Yet because of these budget cuts, catchphrases such as the “brain drain” are proving true. This is a bad omen for U.S. global leadership in biomedical research and the future health and wellness of our nation.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the nation’s premier biomedical research agency and the leading supporter of biomedical research in the world. Despite numerous public polls showing strong support among Americans for government funding of basic biomedical research, NIH’s budget was cut by $1.5 billion this year, or 5 percent, from $31 billion. Continue reading →

Budget sequestration could soon cost us in lives

An excerpt of an op-ed by Robert I. Field, PhD, JD, MPH, professor of the Earle Mack School of Law & Drexel School of Public Health published in Philly.com.

Robert I. Field

Robert I. Field, PhD, JD, MPH

What do we get when Congress cuts federal spending across-the-board? Does it bring lower taxes, smaller deficits, and less bureaucracy?

How about worse health care, less medical innovation, and lost lives?

The budget sequester that Congress enacted in 2011 began to take effect this year with spending cuts for most federal programs. So far, the majority of Americans have seen little change. Some may even applaud the idea of forcing the federal government to make due with less.

But the sequester is about to exert an especially sinister effect that lies just outside of public view. It could cripple medical research.

The National Institutes of Health is the largest single source of biomedical research funding in the world. It supports work at most universities in the United States and at many around the world.

That’s not just important to the physicians and researchers who work at those institutions. It’s vitally important to everyone. NIH funding stands behind the development of almost every major drug that has emerged over the past 50 years. You can see the impact of this agency every time you open your medicine cabinet. It has also brought us countless medical devices and procedures. And led to 83 Nobel prizes. Continue reading →

June is Men’s Health Month

Men’s Health Month increases the awareness of preventable health problems and encourages early detection and treatment of disease among males. According to MensHealthMonth.org, this is a time for health care providers, policy makers, the media, and individuals to encourage men to seek regular medical advice and early treatment for disease and injury. Continue reading →

Statement from Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on President Obama’s FY14 Budget Proposal

The president’s FY14 budget proposal offers a lifeline for medical research to replace sequestration’s damaging footprints. The budget includes $31.3 billion for the National Institutes of Health, as well as increases for the Food and Drug Administration and National Science Foundation. These increases would take our nation in the right direction, but we’re concerned that budget proposals from Congress – one from each of the House and Senate – unlike the president, fail to reverse sequestration. Sequestration, 10 years of across-the-board spending cuts, will drag our nation down from its leadership position in research and development as other countries aggressively ramp up investments, attracting American businesses and young scientists concerned that federal funding is on the decline, that the U.S. no longer prioritizes research. Policy makers must start acting in the best interests of this nation and tackle tax and entitlement reform to end sequestration.

Our nation has the most sophisticated medical research ecosystem in the world; yet our elected officials have ignored the short- and long-term consequences of dismantling it via sequestration – more deaths from preventable diseases, increased joblessness and soaring health care costs as more Baby boomers become afflicted with Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease and other life-threatening, costly illnesses.

While the president’s budget increases federally-funded medical research, Congress and the administration must look more deeply into the consequences of dramatic cuts to Medicare Parts B and D, which cover crucial medical innovations including prescription drugs, biologics, and medical devices.  If Medicare undervalues these preventative, diagnostic, and treatment tools, access and innovation will both suffer. The counterproductive effect of slowed innovation and access barriers could be increased hospital and other health care costs. We’re also disappointed that the president’s budget cuts funding for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention which is already operating on a severely depleted budget.  Cuts to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality which identifies waste and duplication in our health care system while combating deadly medical errors are also a strategic mistake.  Policymakers must tread carefully in the coming weeks to avoid decision-making that will endanger the health and economic prosperity of our country.

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Rally for Medical Research: Building a grassroots movement to make medical research a higher national priority


Thousands of scientists, patients and research advocates gathered on the grounds of the Carnegie Library in Washington, DC, on April 8 to unite behind a call for increased funding for medical research. The Rally for Medical Research was organized by the American Association for Cancer Research in conjunction with their annual meeting and was supported by more than 200 partnering organizations — including Research!America. The program featured statements from patients and their families, scientists, policy makers, and research advocates. Cokie Roberts of ABC News and NPR, cancer survivor and research advocate, was the master of ceremonies. Continue reading →

International Women’s Day: Women’s health and research in the spotlight

March 8, International Women’s Day, “has grown to become a global day of recognition and celebration across developed and developing countries alike,” reads InternationalWomansDay.com, a global hub for sharing news and resources about the day. While great strides have been made in the past hundred years to improve the health and equality of women in America, there are still areas of medical care and research where women are at risk; these areas represent a great opportunity for America to lead the way in promoting health and equality for women around the world. Some Research!America alliance member organizations work every day to bring increased awareness to health issues affecting women or to advocate for females in research and science careers.

The Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) is a national non-profit organization that seeks to “bring attention to the myriad of diseases and conditions that affect women uniquely.” SWHR has helped make women’s health issues a national priority by advocating for greater funding for sex-based biological differences research and legislative and regulatory issues related to women’s health, as well as administering public educational campaigns on women’s health. WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease is the only national patient-centered organization that focuses exclusively on women’s heart disease. The overall mission of WomenHeart is “to improve the health and quality of life of women living with or at risk of heart disease, and to advocate for their benefit.”

Though the number of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) research disciplines is gradually rising, there is still a significant disparity in the ratio of men to women in STEM careers. The Association for Women in Science, or AWIS, advocates for the interests of women in science and technology. AWIS seeks to educate the public about bias against women in STEM careers, the disparities in career advancement and underrepresentation of women in the STEM workforce through publication of fact sheets and advocacy activities.

The U.S. government is committed to improving women’s health around the globe. Through policies and programs such as the Global Health Initiative, women’s health activities under PEPFAR and an executive order to develop a U.S. strategy to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, the U.S. has made significant investments in women’s health. At a recent event about U.S. priorities for women’s global health in the president’s second term, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, said “nothing has a greater return than investment in women’s health” and promised that the U.S. will continue to operate under the “guiding principle that no woman should be denied access to the care she needs for a healthy life for her and her children.”

Find local International Women’s Day events through the InternationalWomansDay.com event calendar.  In the Washington, DC area, look for a launch event for an international network designed to help women grow their careers through mentoring. The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, UN Women, will be offering a free webcast of its International Women’s Day event at the UN headquarters in New York.

Stay away from this kisser on Valentine’s Day

You may be familiar with chocolate kisses and candy hearts on Valentine’s Day, but have you ever heard of “kissing bugs?” These insects, found throughout Latin America and parts of the United States, transmit Chagas disease, a parasitic infection that can lead to heart disease in both humans and animals. Chagas infects up to 10 million people worldwide and is a growing problem here in the U.S. It is estimated that 300,000 individuals here at home have Chagas and the disease costs the U.S. nearly $1 billion annually in lost productivity and health care costs. Some experts are also concerned about the growing number of animals with Chagas infections. A recent study showed that in Louisiana, up to 60% of dogs in some kennels have tested positive for Chagas. The Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio has reported Chagas in military working dogs, and several dogs overseas have actually had to return home because of symptoms from the disease, leaving the units they supported without explosive detection dogs. Clearly this is just one small part of the global story of Chagas as the disease costs thousands of lives and imposes a significant economic burden on all affected countries, most notably in Latin America. More research is necessary to better understand the true impact of Chagas in both animals and people and to develop more effective tools to combat this potentially deadly disease worldwide.

Morgan McCloskey, global health intern

U.S. Investment in Biomedical and Health Research on Downward Trend

Pending Budget Cuts will Further Jeopardize Global Leadership in Research and Innovation 

WASHINGTON, DC—October 25, 2012—Biomedical and health research and development (R&D) spending from all sources declined by more than $4 billion or 3% between FY10 and FY11 according to Research!America’s 2011 U.S. Investment in Health Research report. This represents the first drop in overall spending since Research!America began compiling the data in 2002.

The decline follows an uptick in research funding attributed to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which allocated $10.4 billion to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) over two fiscal years (2009-2010). The overall downward trend in R&D spending is coming at a time when other nations are ramping up their own investments in research, and meanwhile, pending across-the-board budget cuts (sequestration) could reduce federal biomedical and health research funding by 8%-10% or more.

“Insufficient funding, coupled with deep budget cuts under sequestration, could be devastating for research,” said Research!America’s chair, former Congressman John E. Porter. “Our global competitiveness hinges on a robust investment that will support bright scientific minds, create high-quality jobs and provide a catalyst for private sector innovation.”

Research!America’s 2011 U.S. Investment in Health Research report shows varying levels of health research funding in the private and public sector. For example, federal funding for research totaled $39.5 billion in FY11, a 14% decrease from the previous year’s total of $45.9 billion. Agency funds were distributed across all 50 states to hospitals, universities, independent research institutes and small businesses. Under sequestration, the NIH would lose $2.53 billion in funding in FY13.

“As R&D spending abroad outpaces federal investments here at home, U.S. companies will set up shop in countries with stronger policies to support research,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. “We cannot afford to become complacent as cures for Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease and other serious health threats remain a priority for every American.”

Overall, private industry has continually increased investments in R&D — a total of $77.6 billion in 2011, a 1.4% increase from 2010, despite inflationary pressure and the economic recession. The pharmaceutical industry increased its investment to $38.5 billion, a 3% increase from the previous year. In contrast, biotechnology investment declined by nearly $800 million, or 3%. The medical device and technology sector slightly increased investment in research, totaling $9.8 billion. Currently, more than 80% of R&D among PhRMA member companies is conducted in the United States, but R&D spending abroad has more than doubled over the past decade.

Aside from federal and industry investment, other institutions spent $19.1 billion on health research, an increase of about 5% from the previous year. Universities increased spending of institutional funds for research to $11.9 billion in 2010, a 6% increase. Philanthropic spending decreased slightly, while voluntary health groups increased investment in research by 15%, or $131 million, from the prior year.

According to funding projections in the report, the research investment landscape could worsen in 2013 and over the next decade. The scenario is different in other countries; as just one example, China has identified biotechnology as one of the seven “strategic and emerging (SEI) pillar” industries and has pledged to invest $308.5 billion in biotechnology over the next 5 years. Overall, the report provides analysis that outlines health research as one of the underpinnings of the U.S. economy and a key to improving the health of Americans.

Research!America has issued estimates of the US investment in health research since 2002. All reports in the series are available online at www.researchamerica.org/research_investment.

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A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Just as competitive as the Olympics, but not on the national radar screen

Dear Research Advocate,

This week’s Nobel Prize announcements are a fine reminder of how government-supported research plays a critical role in expanding our knowledge, leading not only to worldwide recognition but taking us closer to understanding and curing disease. The winners of the prize for chemistry, Dr. Robert Lefkowitz, Howard Hughes Medical Research investigator and professor at Duke University Medical Center, and Dr. Brian Kobilka of Stanford University School of Medicine both received grants from the National Institutes of Health, as did one of the physiology and medicine awardees, Dr. Shinya Yamanaka. They are among the many Nobel laureates whose important work throughout the years has been supported by the American taxpayer.

Wouldn’t it be great if candidates for election this November were talking about the Nobel Prizes? Among the responses to our voter education initiative we received this week was the telling remark from one incumbent that not only does his campaign not have a science advisor, he believes that no candidate (for the House) does! Although we know for a fact that he isn’t entirely correct, his perception is close enough to reality to give an insight into the priority level our issue has in this election. We’ll know that candidates care about worldwide recognition in science — which is at least as competitive as the Olympics — when they talk up American “wins” of the Nobel science prizes. Don’t let the candidates’ apparent disinterest in the Nobel stop you from drawing attention to the awardees’ accomplishments. Write a letter to the editor today!

Far from being a priority, research, and thus medical progress, is threatened by the specter of sequester. Research advocates must work together to convey the same message to policy makers: prioritize health research. Life Technologies, a Research!America member, has launched a new grassroots tool that makes it quick and easy to reach out to your representatives to urge them to halt the sequester before it’s too late.

We’re continuing to hear more about the local impact of sequestration, and that is a good thing if we expect to stop it in its tracks. Typical of explanations we’re seeing is that of Dr. Bill Chin, executive dean for research at Harvard Medical School, who describes sequestration as a “knife hanging over our heads … About a quarter of new grants won’t be funded and funding will be reduced for current projects working on cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and heart disease, all of which have had remarkable advances recently.” The New York Times, citing a report from AAAS, explains that federal R&D funding could be cut by more than $12 billion in 2013 alone. The article calls out the vital role of the government in incubating the new ideas that are commercialized by the private sector, leading to new jobs and even new industries. Talk about return on investment! (And we should talk about it!) Clearly, maintaining and boosting our investments in research is one of the key ingredients for repowering and revitalizing our economy.

Vice President Joe Biden will be facing off with Rep. Paul Ryan in the vice presidential debate tonight. We can expect health and health care to be part of the discussion, which provides an opportunity to connect the dots to research. As you monitor the discussion, be sure to weigh in on social media to remind the candidates that research for health should be a priority as we seek to drive innovation and medical progress.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley