Tag Archives: HIV

Invest in NIH research

Excerpt of an op-ed by Society for Neuroscience Early Career Science Policy Fellow Matthew J. Robson, PhD, published in The Tennessean.

robson0705The United States has historically been a consistent, international force of innovation and advancement in biomedical research. Such research is not possible without federal funding of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services.

Although the NIH supports basic biomedical research aimed at a greater understanding of the causes of disease and the improved health of all Americans, relatively few understand the scope of the accomplishments of this agency.

Research that depends upon NIH funding has contributed to improved treatments for many ailments, including asthma; brought advances in imaging technologies, including MRI; nearly eliminated transmission of HIV between mother and child; and more than halved the incidence of mortality from heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death in America. Additionally, NIH funding was crucial in supporting the Human Genome Project, a project that has transformed the way that basic and clinical biomedical research is conducted. These advances in medicine have saved countless lives across the globe. These medical breakthroughs stem from our country’s persistent and sustained investment in basic biomedical research through NIH funding that is allocated by Congress.

Adequate levels of funding for the NIH are crucial for not only future medical advancements, but also the economic health of the United States. Currently, biomedical research results in over $2 of economic activity for every $1 of taxpayer investment. Biomedical research funding is clearly not a “bridge to nowhere,” as it makes up less than 1 percent of the entire federal budget and represents a true investment with real quantifiable returns. NIH-funded research is responsible for nearly half a million high-quality jobs within the United States, jobs that result in economic prosperity in regions where this research activity occurs, including Tennessee. In Tennessee alone, it is estimated that NIH funding is responsible for employing nearly 11,000 people.

Read the full op-ed here.

Advertisements

US Biomedical Research: We Must Reverse a Decade of Neglect

Excerpt of an op-ed by the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation President Claire Pomeroy, MD, published in the Huffington Post.

PomeroyAs an HIV physician, I began my career early in the AIDS epidemic before effective antiviral medications existed. I held my patients’ hands as they cried when receiving their diagnosis and I went to their funerals. I saw hope in their eyes when new antivirals became available. And when protease inhibitors were licensed and “triple therapy” became the norm, I could help patients plan how they would live, rather than how they would die. Scientific breakthroughs happened only because of our nation’s commitment to biomedical research, but this power of research to make lives better is at great risk.

The decline of U.S. prominence in global biomedical research is upon us: The National Institutes of Health budget has been flat for 10 years and lost 25 percent of its purchasing power, sequestration cut $1.7 billion from the 2013 NIH budget and the 2014 budget is $714 million less than the level approved for 2013, the federal government shutdown prevented enrollment of patients into clinical studies and delayed clinical research protocols, and next generation researchers are taking ideas and talents to other countries. The U.S. sits on the sidelines as nations such as China and India increase research investment by nearly 20 percent while the U.S. drops by 5 percent.

The government’s failure to ensure significant ongoing support for biomedical research undermines the future of science and health in our nation and threatens a strategic driver of the economy. The call to action is clear: The research community must increase advocacy, develop novel research partnerships, and create new opportunities for young researchers.

Read the full op-ed here.

2013 Canada Gairdner Awards

Since 1959, the Canada Gairdner Awards recognize and reward the achievements of medical researchers whose work contributes significantly to improving the quality of human life. Among the world’s most esteemed medical research prizes, the awards distinguish Canada as a leader in science and provide a $100,000 prize to each scientist for their work.

Four U.S. scientists are among this year’s winners:

  • Canada awardHarvey J. Alter, MD and Daniel W. Bradley, PhD received the Canada Gairdner International Award for their contributions to the discovery and isolation of the hepatitis C virus. Dr. Alter is a senior investigator and Chief Infectious Diseases Section and associate director for research, Department of Transfusion Medicine at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Bradley is a consultant for infectious diseases viral hepatitis at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Stephen Joseph Elledge, PhD, received the Canada Gairdner International Award for his work in DNA repair. Dr. Elledge is a Gregor Mendel Professor of Genetics and Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Continue reading →

Budget sequester squeezes scientific research

Excerpt of an article by Ariana Eunjung Cha, published in the The Washington Post.

A year ago, Yuntao Wu was on a roll. The George Mason University researcher had just published a study hailed by the scientific press as “groundbreaking” that reveals why HIV targets only a specific kind of T-cell and, separately, found that a compound in soybeans seemed to have promise for inhibiting infection.

These days, Wu — one of thousands of scientists who lost his grant in the wake of sequester cuts — says he spends much of his time hunched over a desk asking various people and organizations for money.

The deep across-the-board cuts in government spending that took effect March 1 have sent shock waves through the nation’s research labs, delaying research and forcing layoffs.

The budget for the National Institutes of Health, the world’s largest funder of biomedical research, shrank 5.5 percent. The National Science Foundation budget was trimmed by 2.1 percent. Research funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NASA, the defense and energy departments, and other parts of the government that conduct research also were cut significantly.

The sequester has affected all parts of the government but the impact has been especially painful to those in biomedical research, where federal investment in inflation-adjusted dollars has decreased every year since 2003.

Describing the scientific and medical community as “deeply demoralized,” NIH Director Francis Collins said in an interview that the budget cuts are delaying innovation and resulting in more American lives being lost. Continue reading →

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 →

Importance of Affordable Diagnostics

An article in the most recent issue of The Scientist highlighted the importance of affordable diagnostics for global health. Although scientific advances have improved treatment options for many global diseases, a lack of effective, low-cost diagnostics hinders the health of many in the developing world. For example, medicines to treat HIV and tuberculosis have been life-saving for many individuals, but they can cause liver damage and patients on these medications must be monitored. However, the primary test for liver damage requires expensive equipment that is simply not available in low-income countries. To solve this problem, a Massachusetts biotech company, Diagnostics For All, developed a 10 cent paper-based test that can diagnose liver damage with a single drop of blood.

Other U.S.-based companies are working on similar low-cost diagnostics. In Texas, Global BioDiagnostics Corp is developing a more effective test for tuberculosis that will cost just $5. Both of these projects are excellent models for incorporating the idea of access into the research process and designing products that can actually be utilized in low-resource settings. However, there is often not enough money for companies to develop these kinds of products. In fact, a principal investigator at PATH says that “the problem [with low-cost diagnostics] is almost always funding.” Therefore, it is crucial to increase funding for affordable diagnostics. Not only would increased investment support these U.S.-based companies, but the end products could truly transform health care in the developing world.

Update: Another article, published in The Scientist on January 10, also addresses the urgent need for better diagnostics in resource-limited countries. In addition to making diagnostics more affordable, truly successful new diagnostics must also be “sensitive, specific, user-friendly, rapid, equipment-free and deliverable” and these considerations must be built into the R&D process. Overcoming these research challenges hinges not only on additional funding, but collaboration between research companies, the healthcare industry and local governments. Several Product Development Partnerships (PDPs) are leading the charge in these kinds of innovative collaborations. For example, the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), a PDP based in Geneva, Switzerland, is working with manufacturers, health organizations and ministries of health and developing diagnostics from the initial design to the operational research phase to determine the diagnostic’s efficacy in a low resource setting. The importance of these kinds of new tests, which will result in more appropriate treatment plans that can save lives and money, cannot be overlooked.

-Morgan McCloskey, global health intern