Tag Archives: innovation

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Innovation today doesn’t guarantee innovation tomorrow

Dear Research Advocate:

Research!America yesterday released our recommendations for the top five science priorities the new Congress should address in its first 100 days: end sequestration, increase funding for our nation’s research agencies, advance the 21st Century Cures Initiative legislation, repeal the medical device tax, and enact a permanent and enhanced R&D tax credit. See the full press release here. Among these priorities, ending sequestration is the steepest uphill climb – but what a difference it would make for the future of health and the nation’s economy! That’s the focus of this editable message to members of Congress. Please weigh in!

Securing meaningful increases in funding for our federal research agencies will take the same kind of leadership and bipartisan commitment that propelled the FY98 – FY03 doubling of the NIH budget. A recent CQ Healthbeat interview with Congressman Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the new chairman of the House Appropriations “Labor-H” Subcommittee, suggests there is reason to hope for just that kind of momentum. During his discussion with CQ Healthbeat reporter Kerry Young, Chairman Cole indicated that he plans to establish an aggressive hearing schedule, with the goal of facilitating the bipartisanship that was long the hallmark of the Appropriations Committee. He said: “If we talk enough, maybe we find some common ground and some unusual alliances and some places where instead of being at one another’s throat, we can actually work together …” Cue research to save lives and combat disability.

Fareed Zakaria writes in the Washington Post that, “federal funding for basic research and technology should be utterly uncontroversial,” and I couldn’t agree more. However, robust federal funding is only a part of the equation. Tax and other policy reform is crucial to the vitality of domestic innovation. In his op-ed, Fareed identifies troubles faced by American start-up companies, with their number trending down alarmingly as they face so many barriers to entry. He notes that yes, American innovation is still a wonder of the world, but it is becoming less and less unique. Innovation today doesn’t guarantee innovation tomorrow. Success in both the public and private sectors relies on updating of creaky national policies to reflect the excitement and potential of 21st century science and technology.

Finally, an issue where change is crucial, but the path to it uncertain: how to prevent the discouragement and flight of still more young would-be super-scientists. Johns Hopkins University president Ronald J. Daniels takes on this issue in the most recent edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (see press release here). As he explains, increased competition for grant funding and fewer faculty jobs could well choke off the pipeline of young scientists needed to maintain our nation’s research capacity. Daniels’ perspective is an important contribution to a profoundly complex issue that cries out for resolution. It is likely to be on the 21st Century Cures agenda and receive considerable attention during the aforementioned Labor-H hearings. It would serve the research community well for advocates to come to consensus on solutions rather than wait for solutions to be imposed without their input.

We have a lot of work cut out for us, stakeholders in science and lawmakers alike. But at the end of the day, we are all working in the public’s interest – a starting point for agreement even when we might seem miles apart.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

Funding research

Letter to the editor by Research!America VP of Communications Suzanne Ffolkes published in The Gainesville Sun.

In reference to the Dec. 28 editorial “Funding innovation,” countless medical breakthroughs would not have been possible without the support of federal funding. It is imperative that research and innovation become a higher national priority for the new Congress.

Bipartisan proposals to advance medical progress — like the 21st Century Cures Initiative that includes provisions to boost federal funding for research, modernize clinical trials and incentivize the development of new drugs and devices, among others — should be given serious consideration. Stagnant funding over the last decade and sequestration have taken a toll on research institutions in Florida and across the country. Continue reading →

Nobel Prize Winners Underscore the Importance of Robust Support for Basic Research

This year’s Nobel prize winners in chemistry and medicine or physiology are testimony to the importance of basic research that, while it may not demonstrate immediate benefits to human health, can lead to a greater understanding of deadly disease. Research!America applauds Eric Betzig of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Stefan W. Hell of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Germany; and William E. Moerner of Stanford University, who received a graduate fellowship from the National Science Foundation, for their work in improving the resolution of optical microscopes. Their achievements have allowed scientists to study tiny cells, and in doing so, more clearly identify the emergence of diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s. These awardees join the Nobel winners in physiology or medicine – announced earlier this week – Professor John O’Keefe of the University College London, who as a postdoctoral fellow was supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health; and May-Britt and Edvard Moser, both of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Their discoveries of cells that provide the basis for how the brain maps surrounding space, allowing us to navigate difficult environments, may lead to a better understanding of diseases. If we are to continue to see progress in overcoming disease, it is vital that our elected representatives take action on behalf of the public’s interest in finding cures and increase this nation’s investment in research.

Bold Public-Private Partnership aims to AMP-lify Medical Innovation

Image credit: National Institutes of Health

Image credit: National Institutes of Health

Technological advances have paved the way for researchers to access a wealth of data about the biological cause of disease. Yet translating these discoveries into treatments remains a challenge. Promising drugs often fail in late phase clinical trials, costing time and money, and leaving patients’ lives hanging in the balance. One reason is that the right biological targets were not chosen from the start.

To improve the current model for developing new diagnostics and treatments, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and several biopharmaceutical companies and non-profit organizations formed the Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP), www.nih.gov/amp.  “The good news is that recent dramatic advances in basic research are opening new windows of opportunity for therapeutics…But this challenge is beyond the scope of any one of us and it’s time to work together in new ways to increase our collective odds of success,” NIH Director Francis Collins, MD said in a press release. “We believe this partnership is an important first step and represents the most sweeping effort to date to tackle this vital issue.”  Dr. Collins will be among the distinguished panelists at the “AMP-lifying Innovation” discussion on Wednesday, June 25 at the BIO International Convention in San Diego http://convention.bio.org/  #BIO2014 Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Research!America: Flat won’t get the job done

Dear Research Advocate:

Today, Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) released the Senate’s 302(b) allocations, which were approved by the Appropriations Committee. As you know from last week, the House 302(b) allocation for the Labor-HHS subcommittee is approximately $1 billion less in fiscal year 2015 than it was in FY 14.The Senate’s allocation for FY 15 is roughly the same as it was in FY 14. The bottom line is that, as expected, we have our work cut out for us to achieve the increases needed for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and our nation’s other health research agencies. Fortunately, Senator Mikulski and other leaders from both sides of the aisle understand the importance of investing in research to drive U.S. innovation.  That doesn’t reduce advocates’ workload, but it makes success more than a longshot.

Earlier this week, both the House and the Senate Appropriations subcommittees on Agriculture considered bills that would fund the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in FY 15. The House version calls for a $23 million increase (less than 1%) while the Senate version provides a $36 million increase. While appropriators deserve credit for finding additional dollars for the FDA given overall FY 15 budget constraints, this agency’s responsibility for protecting the very safety of Americans requires more dollars than this.  Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Research!America: Rallying more defenders of science

Dear Research Advocate:

In recognition of his many accomplishments as a champion for research, Research!America Chair and former Congressman John Edward Porter was honored by the National Academy of Sciences with the Public Welfare Medal, the Academy’s most prestigious award. This well-deserved acknowledgment of Porter’s tireless efforts to advance innovation and engage scientists in advocacy should motivate advocates to follow his lead and speak up about threats to our nation’s research ecosystem. Read our statement on the award ceremony here.

In his remarks, Mr. Porter noted that “political judgment should never be allowed to be substituted for scientific judgment.” This point was particularly well-timed as political attacks on science, particularly health services research, continue unabated.

A case study from Louisiana highlights the importance of health research in saving lives. Children’s Hospital in New Orleans had an outbreak of a deadly hospital-acquired infection, mucormycosis in 2008-09. In response to several outbreaks in recent years, the CDC launched new targeted initiatives to help hospitals and health departments share information with the public about hospital-acquired infections.This type of public health work, based on health services research findings, is critical to delivering high quality care, reducing medical errors and protecting patients. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Research!America: Are we on the right path to protecting innovation?

Dear Research Advocate:

The budget and appropriations process typically reveals stark differences in funding priorities among the two parties. And this year is no exception. House Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-08) introduced the Democrats’ 10-year budget plan this week, which stands apart from the Republican proposal introduced by Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI-01) most notably by ending sequestration. The Ryan budget, which won House approval today, is on its way to the Senate but is considered dead on arrival. Note that there’s still time to urge your Members of Congress to support medical and health research as this year’s appropriations process continues!

Teen “whiz kids” profiled in the latest issue of People magazine personify the future of science and medical innovation. Among them, Jack Andraka, who at age 15, created an affordable diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer that provides results in five minutes. He faced tremendous obstacles securing funding for his breakthrough innovation, a problem we see all too often in medical and health research. Such ingenuity propels our best and brightest to take risks but the funding to support their revolutionary ideas is not within their grasp.

Discussing these innovative projects with candidates and elected officials is key to elevating science and technology in the national conversation. In Research!America’s newly released poll data summary booklet, America Speaks, Volume 14, two-thirds of Americans (66%) say it’s important for candidates running for office to assign a high priority to funding medical research. Now is the time to ask future and returning Members of Congress if they believe that medical progress is a high national priority as part of our new national voter education initiative Ask Your Candidates!, which was formally launched this week. More details about America Speaks and the campaign can be found here. As the number of lawmakers with a background in science diminishes, it’s more important than ever to engage with your representatives. Michael S. Lubell writes in Roll Call that if we don’t elect a new scientist in the upcoming elections, it will mark a six-year decline from five to two Members of Congress who have a PhD in a natural science.

National Public Health Week, which wraps up tomorrow, provides another opportunity to engage policy makers about the benefits of health research. Don’t miss our recent blog post celebrating public health — an often underappreciated facet of our research ecosystem.

A new video highlighting backstage interviews with our 2014 Advocacy Award Winners illustrates the passion and drive of these extraordinary leaders who have contributed greatly to medical progress. We encourage you to nominate individuals and organizations whose leadership efforts have been notably effective in advancing our nation’s commitment to research for the 2015 Advocacy Awards.

As you’re aware, members of Research!America’s management team will guest-author this letter in Mary’s absence. This week’s author is Research!America’s vice president of communications, Suzanne Ffolkes.

Sincerely,

Suzanne Ffolkes

Fighting for American Priorities

Tell the House to Reject the House Majority’s Budget Plan

In response to President Obama’s budget proposal, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI-01) released a budget plan titled, “The Path to Prosperity.” In this 10-year budget, Rep. Ryan proposes drastic cuts to the funding used to support medical progress among other national priorities. If this budget became law, it is a near certainty that our nation would lose its global lead in science and innovation, undermining jobs, sabotaging any progress toward economic stability, and stalling research that is addressing deadly and disabling health threats.  Research reduced cancer deaths among children by 2.1% per year from 1975 to 2010 — an overall decline of more than 50%. Is that going to be the end of the story when cancer and other childhood illnesses still take the lives of hundreds of thousands of children each year? When the incidence of Alzheimer’s is exploding, when chronic conditions are proliferating, when Parkinson’s and ALS and MS and thousands of other illnesses are causing untold suffering?  The Ryan budget laser focuses on one type of government spending, not even the largest or fastest-growing segment of the budget, and cuts it so deeply that it would place desperately needed medical progress on hold and our nation’s very future at risk. Send a message to your representative in the House and say NO to the Ryan budget.

Take action now!

What would it take to achieve a cancer-free world?

Excerpt of an article by Research!America VP of Communications Suzanne Ffolkes and Communications Specialist Anna Briseno, published in Elsevier Connect.

A panel hosted by Research!America and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network discusses challenges and opportunities for advancing cancer research

RA_PANCAN_PanelistsJulie Fleshman’s journey to improve outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients was inspired by her father, who died four months after receiving the diagnosis. That was in 1999. Since then, she’s been advocating for research to support early diagnosis and better treatments.

“That passion drives me every day – anger mixed with hope and optimism of the future,” she said.

Fleshman, President and CEO of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN), made her remarks on a panel at the New York Academy of Sciences February 27.

Thought leaders from industry, academia, health economics and patient advocacy discussed challenges and opportunities for advancing cancer research and the prospects for a future where cancers are rendered manageable or even eradicated. They examined various aspects of cancer research and patient advocacy from a regulatory, policy and clinical standpoint. They spoke of the challenges posed by regulatory barriers and the role of advocates in fostering medical innovation. And they said there was critical need for collaboration among all stakeholders – including representatives from pharma, medicine, academia, the government and patient organizations – to accelerate medical progress.

The event – called A World Free from Cancer: A Road Paved with Medical Innovation – was hosted by Research!America and PANCAN.

Fleshman began the discussion by talking about the rise of the patient advocate who plays “an extremely important role in helping to change outcomes and … raise the awareness in the public, which drives public and private dollars and moves Congress to action.”

Laurie MacCaskill, a seven-year pancreatic cancer survivor, agreed. “Luck shouldn’t play a role in why I’m alive,” she said.

Dr. Amy Abernethy suggested that society should work toward better matching treatments and patients so resources aren’t wasted. She highlighted the need for extensive risk and benefit analysis to maximize opportunities for improved healthcare delivery.

MacCaskill agreed, noting it’s important for cancer patients to know what treatment options are available that best suit their needs. She said stakeholders need to work together to develop solutions that increase access.

Read the full article here.

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

Research!America Honors Congressmen Frank Wolf and Chaka Fattah for Advancing Medical Innovation to Save Lives and Strengthen the Economy

Reps. Wolf and Fattah to Receive the Edwin C. Whitehead Award for Medical Research Advocacy at Research!America’s Advocacy Awards Dinner on March 12

ALEXANDRIA, Va.February 12, 2014-Reps. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Chaka Fattah (D-PA) will receive the Edwin C. Whitehead Award for Medical Research Advocacy for their leadership and unwavering commitment to supporting policies that promote federal and private sector medical research and innovation. Reps. Wolf and Fattah have spearheaded efforts to create a legislative and regulatory climate conducive to medical innovation.

“Representatives Wolf and Fattah are exceptional champions for research,” said Research!America Chair John Edward Porter. “They have worked vigorously to increase funding for research, support policies that ignite public and private sector innovation, maintain our global competitiveness, and help patients and their families struggling with costly and debilitating diseases.”

Wolf is currently a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, presides as chairman of the Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee, and is a member of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and State and Foreign Operations subcommittees. Throughout his distinguished tenure in Congress, Wolf has worked to advance the state of science and R&D, and he recognizes the role innovation plays in our nation’s economy, health and international competitiveness. Notably, he was a founder of the “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” Commission which sparked a national effort to bolster federal science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and R&D programs. These efforts culminated in the enactment of the first America COMPETES Act in 2007 to increase public-private partnerships and provide assistance to innovators throughout the country. Wolf also supported the act’s reauthorization in 2010. He is an active member of several caucuses, including research and development, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Americans say scientists aren’t communicating the impact of science

Dear Research Advocate:

Since President Obama declared 2014 as a “year of action” in his State of the Union address, several people have asked my view on how the president might advance science by executive order. Some options that come to mind: the president can (1) pump up the budget for NIH and other science agencies in his FY15 budget blueprint, scheduled for release in early March; (2) require an assessment of the impact on innovation, access and economic growth before making any administration-initiated cuts to drug, biologic or device reimbursement; and (3) designate a task force to formulate a national science strategy.

As several Members of Congress noted after the president’s address, American progress can’t be achieved solely by executive order. But rather than debating constitutional authority, it’s past time for the administration and Congress to work together to advance the priorities of the Americans who hired them. Congress is reportedly getting a jump-start on the FY15 appropriations process, so this is perfect timing for advocates to make the case for science funding levels that capitalize on the multi-faceted return on that investment. Continue reading →

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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A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: A 21st Century Sputnik Wake up Call

Dear Research Advocate:

The end of the year is a good time to think ahead and consider our nation at the end of the decade; how will we fare in the world order? My letter this week to the editor of the New York Times highlights poll data indicating that Americans don’t believe the U.S. will be the world leader in science and technology by 2020. This data reflects opinions grounded in numerous media reports on China’s accomplishments and determination to lead the world in science. Chinese accomplishments in space of late and their plans for a space station in 2020 ought to be a 21st century “Sputnik moment” for the U.S. It should be a wake-up call to policy makers: get serious about fueling our nation’s underpowered research and education infrastructure if we expect to compete globally in the years ahead. As NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins noted in his Washington Post op-ed this week, we’re at a “critical juncture” in biomedical research. Do we pursue opportunities derived from recent medical breakthroughs or squander them with insufficient funding for research?  Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Pope Francis is the Man of the Year; do you know what the Word of the Year is?

Dear Research Advocate:

Here’s a holiday surprise! I am not referring to the budget deal, but to the fact that Merriam-Webster’s 2013 word of the year — determined via the greatest increase in online searches — is “science.” I find this to be refreshing news, providing evidence that interest in science is growing, which in turn is an indication of substantial room for researchers and research advocates to contribute to public understanding and support of science. We appear to have an opportunity ready for the taking to overcome the “invisibility” problem that contributes to holding decision makers back from assigning a higher priority to science.

And speaking of those decision makers, we have a budget deal! While modest at best, it is a starting point for bipartisanship in serving the public’s interest. We can build on this foundation. Please add your voice, as funding is being determined by appropriators. Click here to urge your Members of Congress to support robust funding for NIH, NSF, FDA, CDC and AHRQ. This week, we’ve released our annual Health R&D Investment report, which could provide new context for your messages. The report shows some gains in philanthropy, industry, and voluntary health association support for research but notes woefully inadequate federal funding, especially given what’s at stake for our health and our economy. Continue reading →