Tag Archives: Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: “Hang together or hang separately”

With the exception of the December run-off in Louisiana and final tallies in a few very close contests, we know the basic political landscape for the next two years. The change is greater than many analysts predicted, although it is not a surprise that the House and the Senate will both be Republican-controlled for the first time in eight years. What does this mean for U.S medical progress and scientific discovery generally? According to our experts at Research!America’s post-election briefing hosted by the AAAS this morning, we can expect some highs and lows in both the “lame-duck” and the next appropriations cycle, with the first seven months of the new year being the limited window of opportunity before most attention turns to the presidential election. Guest speaker David Hawkings, CQ Roll Call senior editor, provided a synopsis of exit polling and voter turnout, which reflected the public’s discontent with the White House and Congress, a continued emphasis on economic concerns, and even splits between Republicans and Democrats on just about every other issue, a combination of factors that doesn’t bode well for bipartisanship generally, much less regular order or major policy changes. In a panel moderated by Rebecca Adams of CQ HealthBeat, Research!America Chair John Porter, Vice Chair Mike Castle, board member Kweisi Mfume and Bart Gordon, all distinguished former Members of Congress, offered predictions on how — or indeed whether — the new Congress will assign a high priority to research moving forward. Congressman Gordon lamented the fact that post-election op-eds and news articles about the agendas of both parties do not mention R&D; there is clearly much more work ahead of us.  Continue reading →

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Statement by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on White House Emergency Funding Request to Congress to Fight Ebola

November 5, 2014

Fighting Ebola and other infectious disease threats is a rightful and critical facet of our national defense. As Congress considers the President’s comprehensive emergency funding request for Ebola, we urge members of Congress to respond on a bipartisan basis. Americans expect our nation’s leaders to present a unified front against national threats, allocating the funding needed to protect our nation. We also expect common sense, which means treating an emergency as an emergency and refraining from haphazardly cutting funding for other priorities in order to “pay for” protecting the American public. Sustained investments in research are necessary to enhance our capability to fend off and prevent other major health challenges that could disrupt medical progress and create economic instability.

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Talking about science at election time

Dear Research Advocate:

Ebola remains in the news. In the midst of the demoralizing finger pointing that seems to have taken the place of unity of mission that ought to characterize our nation, we are occasionally reminded that science is a problem solver. That’s a useful message to convey if we hope to keep the current politicization from worsening. But more of us have to speak out. Don’t stand on the sidelines when you could make a difference at this important time when people are paying much more attention to research than usual.

With the election only a little over a week away, take the time to ask candidates a question or two. Email or tweet in questions to debates and contact campaigns via social media. You might talk about Ebola, keeping your request in the moment.  But consider, too, that your candidates’ views on investing in medical progress may be influenced by yesterday’s news about the federal deficit.  The deficit is $483 billion, or 2.8 percent of GDP — its lowest level since 2007. Reasons cited include lower unemployment, higher tax revenues and stable government spending. Still, the budget gap forecast by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is expected to widen again as an aging population leads to more spending on Social Security and health care. It isn’t surprising that rising health care costs are cited as a force behind projected future deficits.  What is surprising is that our nation doesn’t have a plan to harness research as a means of responsibly reducing health spending. You will hear more from us about advocating for a national plan to address this and other solutions only science can provide.  Continue reading →

Chilling Reality. What’s next for ALS?

The Ice Bucket Challenge raised more than $100 million for ALS research, but turning money and enthusiasm into therapies and cures for the deadly disease is an entirely different type of challenge.

Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley was among the guests on BioCenturyTV This Week on October 19 to discuss the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, our national voter education initiative Ask Your Candidates! and the need for stronger support for medical research.

We need to make sure to tell the people we’re hiring to serve in Congress that it’s really important to fund research for health, and right now is a good time to be doing that,” said Mary Woolley.

Other guests included:

  • Dr. Brett Morrison, a physician and assistant professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University
  • Richard Garr, CEO of Neuralstem, a company that is conducting trials of a stem cell therapy for ALS
  • Benjamin Corb, director of public affairs at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

MW BioCenturyTV

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Suddenly, preparedness matters again

Dear Research Advocate:

We thought we learned our lesson after 9/11 and anthrax attacks.  After the trauma and after fear swept the nation, we invested substantially in “preparedness.”  But then we drifted into complacency, and began cutting deeply into the kind of preparedness that is less visible than TSA and drone strikes, but, as Ebola is teaching us now, no less valuable. As mentioned in today’s congressional hearing on the subject, the decade-long pattern of cuts to federal health agencies, as well as to funding for hospital and public health preparedness, has now been revealed to have been short-sighted.  (Much of the cutting was carried out over the years as a way to “prioritize” federal spending in the face of today’s presumably more pressing problems, including reducing the federal deficit and debt. If our policymakers were holding true to the financial priority argument, they wouldn’t have short-changed NIH, NSF, FDA and CDC or acted to discourage private sector research and innovation. Medical research to develop treatments that slow the progression and ultimately prevent Alzheimer’s and obesity is the only means we have of preventing an entirely foreseeable explosion in national health spending!  Mary Lasker got to the heart of the matter when she said: “If you think research is expensive, try disease.”)

We expect our elected officials to be preparing on all fronts. There will be more Ebolas. That is scary, but it is inevitable. Maybe the next Ebola will take the form of a virus akin to HIV/AIDs or a major act of bioterrorism or a drug-resistant airborne infection. We are a globalized world facing global health threats, and the federal agencies responsible for preventing and responding to these threats must be supported, not politicized, demonized, or starved.  Nor should we address one problem by neglecting others, funding Ebola by reducing dollars for research crucial to combating other health threats. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Do we still value discovery?

Dear Research Advocate:

The accomplishments of the recently announced 2014 Nobel laureates in the fields of physiology or medicine, and chemistry are breath-taking. Whether identifying the mechanisms by which the mind comprehends space and place, or enhancing ability to observe how diseases develop, these scientists have, over time, enabled progress that couldn’t have been determined by fiat. Science serves us all via an iterative discovery process, which is why policymakers are skating on thin ice when they censor research that doesn’t promise results that serve a date or purpose certain. Centuries ago, European rulers launched many ventures before eventually discovering the New World — not every journey was a success, nor was everything discovered anticipated in advance. It is ever thus as we continue to explore new worlds, since even as discoveries open new vistas, plenty of surprises occur. Indeed, some new worlds are not as “new” as first thought — to wit, October includes a holiday known to some as Columbus Day and to others as Indigenous Peoples Day. Seeing things in a new light doesn’t mean we should shut down discovery because some aspects of it make us uneasy or call our values into question.

Ebola has called our values into question, to be sure. Do we need a shared sense of existential threat like Ebola to arrive on our doorstep — a “Sputnik moment,” if you will — before Americans mobilize to demand more support for U.S. science?  Although there is every reason to believe that the world can contain Ebola — we have contained all previous Ebola outbreaks — there is no denying that we are not as well positioned as we should be to face down this challenge, due to years of under-investment in research and public health, including research on diseases that seem rare and/or remote.  My op-ed in Roll Call this week drives home this point, calling on decision-makers to act for NIH, CDC, and, fundamentally, for forward-thinking instead of reactive policies. Continue reading →

Medical research key issue for elections

Letter to the editor by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley published in the Omaha World Herald.

mary-woolley-webThis is in response to a Midlands Voices essay (Finish the job, fund medical research, Sept. 25). The authors’ articulate case for robust and sustained investments in lifesaving research represents the interests of all Americans who await cures, as well as better treatments and prevention of Alzheimer’s, autism, cancer and diabetes and more.

Many Americans believe that elected officials are not doing enough to combat deadly diseases, as they repeatedly cut funding and fail to enact policies that stimulate rather than stifle research. Two-thirds of our fellow citizens say it’s important for candidates running for office to assign a high priority to funding medical research, according to polling commissioned by Research!America.

With the midterm elections approaching, now is the right time to ask congressional candidates whether they would set a high priority on research conducted at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Creighton University School of Medicine and research institutions around the country. Ask Your Candidates, a national voter education initiative, gives voters in Nebraska a simple way to engage candidates and learn more about their positions on assuring medical progress.

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Who has a stake in science?

Dear Research Advocate:

A continuing resolution to fund the federal government at just under Fiscal Year 2014 levels – it now includes supplemental funding to help combat the escalating Ebola epidemic – is on its way to the President’s desk, and members of Congress will soon be on their way home. Where does that leave us? At the very least, with something to talk about.

Today in Kentucky at the Research!Louisville program, now in its 19th year of celebrating science and scientists and engaging the broader community, I talked about the way the nation’s decision-makers have failed us all by setting our nation’s innovation engine on idle, dismissing the fundamental importance of research and innovation at the expense of our health, our national security, our fiscal stability, our economic strength, and our global leadership. And they are sending a message to talented young people like those at the University of Louisville that science is a risky career choice. Yet a “can do” attitude is very much alive here. A group of graduate students has organized a science policy outreach group, determined to bridge the gap between scientists and policymakers. This is an initiative that should be replicated nationwide!

A few days ago at our National Health Research Forum, Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), himself a global leader in combating Ebola, emphasized how public health is a “best buy,” one that is ignored at our peril. And Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) asserted: “we need a complete transformation of how we look at science.” That sentiment was echoed by other panelists in a no-holds-barred conversation about what is right, and wrong, with the research ecosystem. Here are links to video from, news coverage about, and a transcript of, the Forum. We are taking the Forum messages to the Hill and to the public; please join us! Continue reading →

Promising Research Can’t Stall for Lack of Funding

Excerpt of a joint op-ed by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley and Susan G. Komen President and CEO Judith A. Salerno published in The Huffington Post.

MW & JSFebruary 23, 1954, was a milestone in the history of American medical research. That day, children at Arsenal Elementary School in Pittsburgh lined up to receive injections of a promising vaccine. Within months, schoolchildren all over the country were doing the same, and polio was on its way to being eradicated in the United States. The disease, which had killed and paralyzed children and adults alike, would no longer be a threat.

This remarkable achievement would not have been possible without the work of Dr. Jonas Salk and his team at the University of Pittsburgh, and — equally significant — grant support from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, now known as March of Dimes. Policymakers played a role, too, when the Polio Vaccine Assistance Act of 1955 made possible federal grants to the states for purchase of the vaccine and for the costs of planning and conducting vaccination programs.

A generation or two later, millions of individuals worldwide benefited from another major medical breakthrough. Remember when being diagnosed as HIV-positive was an automatic death sentence in the 1980s? Accelerated research supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in partnership with Burroughs Wellcome and Duke University, resulted in the development of AZT, the first drug that slowed the replication of HIV. By 1987, the drug won FDA approval and marked the first major treatment in extending the lives of HIV/AIDS patients. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Happenings in and out of Washington

Dear Research Advocate:

I am writing a day early this week since all of us at Research!America will be engaged in our programs tomorrow. If you haven’t registered for the National Health Research Forum, there is still time to join us! More details here.

Congress is back in town. The House will soon consider a simple, short-term continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government through early December. (Nobody wants a repeat of last year’s government shutdown at the beginning of the new fiscal year, October 1.) To offset funding requested by the Administration to help meet the Ebola crisis, as well as to adjust for certain other “anomalies,” the CR bill includes a 0.0556% across-the-board spending cut. There may be modest negotiations, but this or a very similar CR is likely to easily pass both Houses shortly. After the election, it will be important to vocally support the efforts of Appropriations Committee Chairs Mikulski (D-Md.) and Rogers (R-Ky.-05) as they seek to complete the FY15 appropriations process with omnibus legislation before the 113th Congress adjourns in December. More on this in future letters. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Coming Soon: Straight Talk

Dear Research Advocate:

Just when you thought that there is no good news coming from Washington, it looks as though we have a new congressional champion for research. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) penned a most welcome op-ed in the Asbury Park Press this week. We trust this is just one way he works to convince his constituents and his fellow lawmakers of the high priority the nation should be assigning to research. Championing research can be a heavy lift, since it’s no secret that some policymakers don’t see why government should have any role in R&D. A recent article in Forbes pushes back. As part of the BRAIN Initiative, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is researching a potential breakthrough in healing. It’s a long-shot, but DARPA is known for supporting long shots that have made major contributions to our lives. If the featured research proves successful, it will revolutionize the ability to help wounded warriors – and all of us – heal. It will easily pay for itself many times over. (Just as the GPS – a long-shot, expensive product of federally-funded research – revolutionized our national defense capabilities and has paid for itself over and over again in commercial application. That’s what federally funded research does. It goes where the free market can’t and mines new territory in science and technology. The private sector takes it from there.) The House and Senate defense appropriations bills would both cut funding for DOD-funded R&D. Has shooting ourselves in the foot become a policymaking imperative? Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Labor Day Weekend Check List

Dear Research Advocate:

Labor Day might mean a last chance for R&R, but it also means that election day is right around the corner. It only takes a minute to send a quick email or direct a tweet to candidates. Think of them as candidates for the role of R&D champion! And take a moment to share this call to action with your colleagues, friends and family. The power of social media is undeniable.

aycbeachThere are only 10 days until Congress returns to Washington to face a lengthy to-do list, which is unlikely to shrink much before the November elections. Appropriations action for FY15 has stalled out, with new battle lines being drawn over the time span for a Continuing Resolution (CR). Whatever the length, a CR is no more a solution than is kicking the can down the road on tax provisions. The medical device tax remains unchanged despite its intuitively counterproductive effect on the capital needed to develop lifesaving medical technologies, not to mention the jobs and new businesses that go with that development.  In addition, the R&D tax credit has not been renewed, let alone enhanced or made permanent. If we want our GDP to grow, our tax policies should be aligned with that goal. As things stand, if we don’t figure out how to boost our economy, China’s GDP is projected to surpass ours by 2017.  Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Deep thoughts occasioned by ice buckets

Dear Research Advocate: 
 
You have by now heard about the ALS “ice bucket” challenge (show support for ALS research by dumping a bucket of ice water over your head and/or writing a check for $100 to the ALS Association, then challenge three others to do the same.)  Whether viewed as a welcome late-summer distraction from imponderables like conflict in the Middle East, on-going clashes in Ferguson, Mo., or the mounting death toll from Ebola, or, rather, as the emergence of a new kind of advocacy similar to what produced the walks, runs and bike-rides for research that are ubiquitous today, the “ice bucket challenge” is worthy of attention.

I think that public attention to the “ice bucket” challenge is not only good for ALS research (and all the patients and their families who cope with this devastating illness), but is an opportunity to engage a newly-interested sector of the public, including all those members of Congress who have accepted the challenge. Think about those freely written $100 checks and consider that the NIH budget buys only about $100 worth of medical research per American, per year, on all diseases as well as vital basic research.  Add to that other federal agencies’ budgets, the private sectors’ expenditures (industry, academia, philanthropy, patient groups) and we can maybe triple that amount (generously computed, and including development along with research). Is that enough to assure better health and prosperity for our nation? I’d say not even close.  Not when brilliant young people are discouraged to the point of leaving the country if they want to work in science;  not when other nations are poised to take over U.S. leadership in R&D; not when we are looking at ALS heartbreak and huge federal debt associated with the costs of Alzheimer’s, as just two crises we should be focused on intently, with all the resources we can bring to bear.  Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: A long letter with timely news

Dear Research Advocate:

Today, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) — one of the most effective and dedicated champions of medical and health research ever to serve in public office — introduced major new legislation, the Accelerate Biomedical Research Act.  This visionary legislation would increase the budget caps in order to boost National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding to $46.2 billion by FY 2021, a strategy for restoring NIH purchasing power without cutting into funding for other national priorities. You can view my statement on the legislation here and our thank you letter to the Senator here.  It would be terrific if you would write a letter of support for the legislation and send a message encouraging your Senator to sign on.

There’s more good news to share! The Senate Labor-H bill and accompanying report language were released today.  We are grateful to Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Labor-H Subcommittee Chairman Harkin for helping to conceive of, and agreeing to include, report language to fund a Blue Ribbon Commission on science literacy and public appreciation of science. We’re pleased to have played a role in making this happen but every science advocate deserves credit when federal leaders take a step like this.

In terms of FY15 funding, you may recall that the Senate Labor-H subcommittee proposed NIH be funded at $30.5 billion, a $605.7 million increase, or about a 2% bump over FY14 levels.  The proposed measure also funds CDC at nearly $6 billion, a 3.3% increase from FY14 and funds AHRQ at $373.3 million, a mere .6% increase from FY14.  With the appropriations momentum stalled, rumors are floating around the Hill that the House will soon consider a Continuing Resolution or CR (extending current spending levels) through the election and potentially into December.  Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: American values at stake

Dear Research Advocate:

My colleagues at Research!America have shared the role as author of our weekly letter during my recent sabbatical. My thanks to them for providing timely and actionable information to our wide network. As I am “re-entering” the Washington space, I have been struck by (1) the significantly worse condition of the roads — potholes everywhere, and now even sinkholes in DC! I’ve been in several global capitals this spring, including in less-developed countries, and DC doesn’t look good in comparison. Via recent domestic travels, I can attest to the poor condition of our roads nationwide, taking a toll on vehicles and our economy, while eroding public confidence in government. Public goods — like infrastructure, education and science — that we have long nurtured through steady investment cannot continue to be resource-starved without dire consequences. No wonder the American public is angry at Washington! (2) I have come back just in time to witness the appropriations process grind to a halt. The clock is ticking down toward August recess, and appropriators have a new excuse for failure to take action, i.e., the migrant children emergency. There will always be national emergencies. By definition they are unpredictable, and some are more complex than others; it nonetheless cannot be acceptable for Congress to grind to a halt when one occurs. Continue reading →