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 →
Stagnant funding could threaten progress in eye research
America’s minority populations are united in the view that not only is eye and vision research very important and needs to be a national priority, but many feel that current federal funding ($2.10 per person, per year) is not enough and should be increased. This may stem from the evidence that most minority populations recognize to some degree that individuals have different risks of eye disease depending on their ethnic heritage.
And while these Americans rate losing their eyesight as having the greatest impact on their daily life and having a significant impact on their independence, productivity and overall quality of life, 50 percent of Americans who suffer from an eye-related disease are not aware of it.
These statics and more were the topic of discussion at a press event in Washington, D.C., today, where members of the media and leaders in the eye and vision research community gathered to interact with a panel of experts and weigh in on the topic of The Public’s Attitudes about the Health and Economic Impact of Vision Loss and Eye Disease. Continue reading →
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.
February 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 →
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent more than 50 disease detectives and other highly trained experts to West Africa to battle Ebola. While here in the U.S., more than 350 CDC staff are working on logistics, communications, analytics, management and other functions to support the response 24/7 at CDC’s Emergency Operations Center.“We are fulfilling our promise to the people of West Africa, Americans, and the world, that CDC would quickly ramp up its efforts to help bring the worst Ebola outbreak in history under control,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “We know how to stop Ebola. It won’t be easy or fast, but working together with our U.S. and international partners and country leadership, together we are doing it.” Read more here.
Meanwhile, researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) are studying Ebola and seeking better ways to diagnose and treat the disease. In 2013, the NIAID reported spending $42.49 million on Ebola research. Public-private partnerships are critical to containing and preventing such deadly outbreaks. The NIAID is collaborating with Okairos, a biotech company, to develop Ebola vaccines. The NIH is working with the drugmaker Mapp Biopharmaceutical to scale up production of its Ebola drug Zmapp and partnering with BioCryst to advance the company’s experimental treatments.
Sustained and robust federal funding is needed to respond to global health threats, and to support the development of vaccines to combat Ebola and other deadly diseases. Policymakers must assign a higher priority to medical research to ensure the health and wellness of Americans.
Click here to urge your representatives to support increased funding for federal health agencies in FY15.