Tag Archives: Nobel Prize

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 →

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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.

Statement by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Research!America congratulates this year’s Nobel Prize winners in physiology or medicine, Professor John O’Keefe of the University College London, 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 complex environments, may lead to a better understanding of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, which afflicts 44 million people worldwide. O’Keefe, who as a postdoctoral fellow was supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health, made the first discovery of the brain’s “inner GPS” in 1971. The Mosers continued to develop his research, discovering another key component of the brain’s mapping system which shed more light on our ability to navigate. Continue reading →

Statement by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Statement by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

October 7, 2013

Research!America salutes this year’s Nobel Prize winners in physiology or medicine, Drs. James Rothman of Yale University; Randy Schekman of the University of California, Berkeley; and Thomas Sudhof of Stanford University. Their transformative research into the cell transport system has unleashed opportunities to develop medicines for the treatment of diseases such as diabetes, epilepsy and other metabolism deficiencies that afflict millions of Americans. The winners, whose research was partly funded by the National Institutes of Health, laid the groundwork for research into how brain cells communicate and the inner-workings of other cells that release hormones. This type of federally funded basic research has spurred the expansion of our nation’s biotech industry, which plays an important role in advancing medical progress and stimulating the economy. The awardees exemplify the spirit of innovation sorely needed to inspire the next generation of Nobel laureates. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a Research!America member, also deserves recognition for supporting the work of HHMI investigators Drs. Schekman and Sudhof.

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: This just in…

Dear Research Advocate,

If we cut back our investments in science and research, we will lose out on the companies and innovation that come with it. That was the message President Obama delivered Tuesday night during the second presidential debate. Governor Romney mentioned the wisdom of keeping STEM graduates in the U.S. by “stapling a green card” to their diplomas. In addition, Governor Romney responded to our Your Candidates – Your Health voter education initiative with a statement that stresses his commitment to ensuring government plays a role in supporting life sciences research and asserting that medical innovation must be a national priority. Please share both Governor Romney’s and President Obama’s responses with your networks and encourage other candidates to complete the questionnaire before Election Day.

“Are we too numb to care about the Nobel prizes in science?” That was one of the headlines of my op-ed in response to the Nobel Prize announcements, published in nine McClatchy-owned newspapers across the country to date, including the Sacramento Bee. Headlines assigned by other editors tell the story: “Invest in science? A no-brainer,” “Why won’t we make a commitment to science?”; “World-class investment brings world-class science,” and “Science still needs support.” I describe how science is being given short shrift by policy makers as unprecedented budget cuts loom. Click here to read the op-ed and see a full list of the papers that have run it — this is a made-to-order opportunity for you to submit a letter to the editor. Keep the momentum of our message going! For something fresh to use in your letter, cite new data from Pew Research indicating that, asked about ways to cut the nation’s deficit, 54% of Americans are opposed to reducing funding for scientific research.

Finally, I note with sadness the passing of Senator Arlen Specter. He will be sorely missed and long remembered for his steadfast championship of NIH. Research!America had the opportunity to honor him twice – in 2000 with the Whitehead Award and again in 2009 with our rarely given Legacy Award.  His is indeed a grand legacy of significance to the health and well-being of the American public and people everywhere.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Just as competitive as the Olympics, but not on the national radar screen

Dear Research Advocate,

This week’s Nobel Prize announcements are a fine reminder of how government-supported research plays a critical role in expanding our knowledge, leading not only to worldwide recognition but taking us closer to understanding and curing disease. The winners of the prize for chemistry, Dr. Robert Lefkowitz, Howard Hughes Medical Research investigator and professor at Duke University Medical Center, and Dr. Brian Kobilka of Stanford University School of Medicine both received grants from the National Institutes of Health, as did one of the physiology and medicine awardees, Dr. Shinya Yamanaka. They are among the many Nobel laureates whose important work throughout the years has been supported by the American taxpayer.

Wouldn’t it be great if candidates for election this November were talking about the Nobel Prizes? Among the responses to our voter education initiative we received this week was the telling remark from one incumbent that not only does his campaign not have a science advisor, he believes that no candidate (for the House) does! Although we know for a fact that he isn’t entirely correct, his perception is close enough to reality to give an insight into the priority level our issue has in this election. We’ll know that candidates care about worldwide recognition in science — which is at least as competitive as the Olympics — when they talk up American “wins” of the Nobel science prizes. Don’t let the candidates’ apparent disinterest in the Nobel stop you from drawing attention to the awardees’ accomplishments. Write a letter to the editor today!

Far from being a priority, research, and thus medical progress, is threatened by the specter of sequester. Research advocates must work together to convey the same message to policy makers: prioritize health research. Life Technologies, a Research!America member, has launched a new grassroots tool that makes it quick and easy to reach out to your representatives to urge them to halt the sequester before it’s too late.

We’re continuing to hear more about the local impact of sequestration, and that is a good thing if we expect to stop it in its tracks. Typical of explanations we’re seeing is that of Dr. Bill Chin, executive dean for research at Harvard Medical School, who describes sequestration as a “knife hanging over our heads … About a quarter of new grants won’t be funded and funding will be reduced for current projects working on cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and heart disease, all of which have had remarkable advances recently.” The New York Times, citing a report from AAAS, explains that federal R&D funding could be cut by more than $12 billion in 2013 alone. The article calls out the vital role of the government in incubating the new ideas that are commercialized by the private sector, leading to new jobs and even new industries. Talk about return on investment! (And we should talk about it!) Clearly, maintaining and boosting our investments in research is one of the key ingredients for repowering and revitalizing our economy.

Vice President Joe Biden will be facing off with Rep. Paul Ryan in the vice presidential debate tonight. We can expect health and health care to be part of the discussion, which provides an opportunity to connect the dots to research. As you monitor the discussion, be sure to weigh in on social media to remind the candidates that research for health should be a priority as we seek to drive innovation and medical progress.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

Statement from Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on Nobel Prize Announcements

October 10, 2012

We congratulate Dr. Robert Lefkowitz and Dr. Brian Kobilka on the announcement of the Nobel Prize in chemistry for their groundbreaking work on protein receptors, paving the way for the development of new drugs to halt the rampage of disease. Patients benefit from unwavering commitment to putting research to work. Lefkowitz, an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and professor at Duke University Medical Center, and Kobilka of Stanford University School of Medicine, have demonstrated that scientific discovery is the result of painstaking work supported by both the public and private sector. Throughout their careers, both have received government funding for various studies that have culminated in this remarkable achievement. This is an apt illustration of the value of sustained public investment in science. Dr. Shinya Yamanaka of Gladstone Institutes, one of the winners of the Nobel Prize for medicine and physiology, was also supported by the National Institutes of Health. This week’s winners are among the many Nobel laureates whose incredible work was made possible by support from the American taxpayer. We must continue to assure our nation’s leadership in scientific discovery with a strong investment in research and innovation.