Tag Archives: Larry Shapiro

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Science and the State of the Union

Dear Research Advocate:

The State of the Union (SOTU) message is the annual opportunity for the President to outline his goals. Read my statement on it here. The SOTU historically provides a platform for the executive and legislative branches to identify commonalities, or sharpen differences. Topics in our sights on which Congress and the Administration can work together should they choose (meaning if their constituents demand it!) include innovation, research and development, and 21st century business success. In his speech and in a more detailed proposal, the President calls for a significant increase in funding for antibiotic discovery, Alzheimer’s research, the BRAIN Initiative and precision medicine. We urge the President and Congress to go further, working together to advance a strategic “moonshot” that re-energizes our national commitment to science, very much including basic science. Basic discovery is truly the foundation for all of our nation’s scientific advances. It’s pretty simple. As Dr. Roger Perlmutter, Executive Vice President at Merck, said this week in The New York Times: “Since we don’t know how the machine [the human body] works, we don’t know what to do when it breaks.”

Investment in basic and clinical research isn’t a “nice to have” proposition; it’s essential, leading as nothing else will, to good news for patients. An op-ed this week from Executive Vice Chancellor for Medical Affairs at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Research!America board member Dr. Larry Shapiro discusses the university’s work, funded by the federal government, which has led to advances in early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s before symptoms are perceptible. Continue reading →

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A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Continuing Resolution Passes; Sequestration Unaffected

Dear Research Advocate,

Congress has passed a spending bill for what remains of the current fiscal year, which ends September 30. Preliminary agency funding levels have been reported by Nature. The appropriations process remains important for making up some small amount of the ground lost to sequestration, but as long as sequestration remains the law of the land, annual cuts to NIH, FDA and our nation’s other health research agencies are all but assured; and with it, the insidious ripple effect of damage to grantees, vendors, and the pharma, bio and device industries that partner with researchers to develop the products patients await. That’s the bottom line. We must remind our representatives that sequestration is not some “new normal” we will adjust to, it is a costly mistake! We must remind them that the longer it takes to correct that mistake, the more damage will be done.

As this letter is written, the Senate is debating a budget resolution for FY14. One or more amendments related to NIH are likely to be considered. While it is unlikely any of these amendments will result in increased funding next year – they are likely to be symbolic in nature – we should not dismiss them as unimportant. Singling out medical research funding for consideration and discussion during the budget debate lays the groundwork for more concrete action going forward. As does Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz’s (D-PA) introduction of a stand-alone bill, the “Inspiring Scientific Research and Innovation Act,” calling for a stunning $3 billion increase to NIH funding. Prospects for this bill are slim, but if enough advocates urge their representatives to fashion similarly bold statements of support of this nature, we can turn this around.

American priorities and American progress are on the line more than ever, yet Congress persists in acting like political parties scoring points instead of conducting the public’s business. This point and more were addressed by Research!America’s chair, The Honorable John Porter, at our Advocacy Awards dinner. Many of you have asked to see this speech, which was highlighted in Roll Call. Please contact policy makers to speak out against sequestration; better yet – contact them today and then go visit them in-district next week while they are on recess. Many of our members have or will soon engage in “Hill Day” visits with many advocates – and the timing could not be better. Our fact sheet on sequestration as well as the flyer we developed calling for cures, not cuts, are both good leave-behinds.  Developing new champions is one goal of those Hill Days, I know. Yesterday, in partnership with United for Medical Research, we held a breakfast meeting for freshman Members of Congress to meet NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins. Dr. Collins provided an overview of the opportunities for research and highlighted the challenges facing NIH, including sequestration. Please be sure to thank those who attended and use the opportunity to reinforce the local case for research.

Making the local case is equally if not more important in district as well as on Capitol Hill. This is where the media can amplify the story. Dismal news about the impact of sequestration on our nation’s world class universities is in fact being heard nationwide. Johns Hopkins University’s Dr. Carol Greider, a former Research!America Board member and Nobel laureate, was quoted in Reuters about the cutbacks her lab has faced, which have prevented her from hiring promising young researchers. An article in Fox News cites concerns from Research!America Board member Dr. Larry Shapiro, who is witnessing anxiety among young researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.  Dr. Arthur Levine of the University of Pittsburgh writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the staffing cuts and job losses that could occur, with some of the worst impacts hitting young investigators. The media remains hungry for stories about the impact of these cuts. Write an op-ed or pitch a story to your state or local paper. As always, let us know how we can help.

April 8 is coming right up. If you haven’t already planned to join the Rally for Research here in Washington, make it a priority. As a measure of the level of urgency of speaking out for research and against sequestration, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is, for the first time ever, shutting down their annual research conference so that all 18,000 attendees can participate. And they have extended the Rally widely, to encompass all research and stakeholders in research, to present a comprehensive perspective of health research. This is the kind of game-changing advocacy called for right now. Our Board Chair, Congressman John Porter, will be speaking at the event along with other advocates. The challenges and opportunities before us demand not just a team effort, but a HUGE team effort. Lend your talent and your time. We’ll drive across the goal line together.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

Research!America Board member speaks out against sequestration

As sequestration threatens to obstruct progress in biomedical and health research, members of the research community are continuing to speak out against these across-the-board spending cuts. Research!America Board member Larry Shapiro, MD, dean of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis’, shared his concerns in an article from the Associated Press.

At Washington University in St. Louis and other research institutions across the country, “automatic cuts are causing anxiety among young researchers who are wondering what career options they’ll have if the current economic climate becomes ‘the new normal,’” according to the article.

”This is all that’s being discussed in the hallways and over coffee,” Shapiro told the AP. He added that two genetics researchers recently decided to leave St. Louis and relocate their labs to the United Kingdom in this environment of diminished funding.

“Scientists are passionate about their work, and they’ll go where they have the best opportunity to accomplish it,” Shapiro said in the story.

With reduced funding for young scientists and innovative projects, senior researchers warn that the U.S. will experience a “brain drain,” with promising young scientists heading overseas where funding for research is becoming more abundant. Shapiro isn’t the only academic leader worried about federal funding cuts; read the comments of others in academia in the article.

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Time to ramp up media attention to what’s at stake

Dear Research Advocate,

As our nation edges toward the fiscal cliff, the White House and House Republican leadership have been trading offers. The most recent Republican plan includes additional cuts to discretionary spending — another $300 billion. These newly proposed discretionary cuts are significantly less than the across-the-board approach of sequestration, but suggest that — absent a strong shift in the winds — more discretionary spending cuts will be part of any final, compromise plan. It is highly unlikely that any final plan will be hammered out until next year; the president indicated as much in remarks he made Tuesday. The best guess is that policy makers will coalesce around a small package that is designed to hold back the tidal wave of fiscal problems until the new Congress is in place, at which point sequestration will again become a possibility. Regardless of what scenario plays out — and no scenario is anywhere near certain — we must keep up the pressure.

The recent increase in media requests for stories of families, patients and researchers who will be directly impacted by the fiscal cliff is a positive development and an opportunity to increase awareness. Can you help identify individuals who can tell compelling stories now, before decisions are made, and proactively pitch stories to national and local media? You can do this on your own via social media and also work with the communications office of your society, association or institution. And if you or your organization have examples tracing federally funded research to private sector development, write an op-ed or letter to the editor and shine a spotlight on them! I’ll say it again — this is the time to speak out.

Here are a couple of great examples of recent media attention: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has published an op-ed by Dr. Larry Shapiro, Research!America Board member and dean of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He writes about the need for a bipartisan solution to deficit-reduction, one that does not hurt our health and economy. In The Tennessean, Dr. Jeff Balser of the School of Medicine at Vanderbilt writes about the chilling effect sequestration would have on biomedical progress, while discouraging a generation from pursuing careers in research. Columbia University Medical Center convened a press conference with congressional Reps. Nadler, Rangel and Maloney to urge policy makers to reject cuts to the NIH budget. Consider organizing a local press event — as is frequently said, all politics is local, and the best arguments for saving research are local, too.

Ellie Dehoney, our VP for Policy & Programs, was recently quoted in a CNN article, “10 ways falling off the fiscal cliff could hurt your health,” describing the impact of sequestration on vital medical research programs. Forbes has run an op-ed highlighting how the fiscal cliff would harm our innovation economy. The research community’s message is resonating, and all of us need to make sure all policy makers are hearing it, over and over again. Send your elected representatives an email TODAY.

We can have influence even when it may seem unlikely, simply by speaking up and relentlessly making our case. Click here to access a toolkit of advocacy ideas. Several organizations are utilizing YouTube to make the case — see examples here: American Society of Hematology, American Chemical Society. And Stand With Science is a student advocacy organization looking for signatures for their letter opposing sequestration. On December 10, Research!America will participate in the NDD (non-defense discretionary) Coalition’s day of action. You can, too — find more info on how to participate here — if you tweet on the day of action, be sure to use the hashtag #NoMoreCuts!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley