In This Issue of The Research Advocate
House, Senate Announce Funding Levels, but Debate Continues
Castle Speaks at ASH Advocacy Leadership Institute
Clinical Research Forum to Honor Top Research Achievements
FDA Blueprint to Spur Biomedical Innovation
In the News
Download the entire November 2011 Research Advocate as a PDF.
The House and Senate have proposed funding levels for the National Institutes of Health and other health research agencies. The House bill, which has not been voted on by committee, provides a $1 billion increase for NIH over FY11 levels. Reps. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Brian Bilbray (R-CA) have drafted a bipartisan letter to the House Appropriations Committee urging them to support the $1 billion increase for NIH. The Senate proposal, which has been approved by the full appropriations committee, contains a 0.6% or $190 million cut to NIH.
Congressional leaders have indicated that they plan to move appropriations legislation through a series of "minibuses," which combine two or more appropriation bills. At the time of this writing, it is unclear as to when a Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS) bill may be brought to a floor vote in the House or Senate. Sources in Congress have indicated that the LHHS bill will likely be the last of the minibus bills and could be bundled with the defense spending bill. The first minibus was introduced October 17 in the Senate and included appropriations for Transportation, Commerce/Justice/Science, and Agriculture. This minibus contains a funding level of $2.5 billion for the Food and Drug Administration (a slight increase from FY11) and $6.7 billion for the National Science Foundation (a 2.4% cut from FY11). At the time of this writing, debate is ongoing.
On October 14, recommendations from lawmakers to the supercommittee were due. Reps. David Price (D-NC) and Rush Holt (D-NJ) submitted a letter urging members of the supercommittee to protect, prioritize and strengthen federal investment in education, basic scientific research and technological development. Much of the supercommittee's deliberations have not been publicized while the Members are working to meet a November 23 deadline to present their recommendations to Congress. Should the supercommittee fail to reach an agreement that passes Congress, across-the-board discretionary spending cuts of 7% will be triggered that could be devastating for health research programs.
The White House has launched an initiative to develop a National Bioeconomy Blueprint that will outline the administration's steps to harness biological research to address national needs in areas like health, food and energy. The Office of Science and Technology Policy has issued a Request for Information (RFI) that seeks recommendations on bolstering commercialization, job creation, regulatory reform and public-private partnerships.
The RFI is open until December 6 and may be accessed from the White House website: www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/10/12/building-bioeconomy.
The CPH Foundation honored its 2011 Unsung Heroes of Public Health with a reception at the Columbus Club at Union Station in Washington, DC. The heroes that were honored included Luis Garcia, PsyD; Marjorie Lunsford; Lynn Silver, MD, MPH; and Liz Szabo. Prior to the reception, the awardees met with Members and staffers from their congressional delegations.
The CPH Foundation also hosted a Hill briefing in late October focused on adult vaccines. For more information on the briefing, visit the Foundation's website at www.cphfoundation.org.
Research!America; Pfizer, Inc; and the University of South Florida hosted a Research Partners Forum in Tampa, FL, on October 27 titled "Let Me Be Clear: Science Journalism in the Age of the Genome and Twitter." The format, similar to a forum in May with the University of Maryland, brought together journalists and scientists to discuss how they can work together amid an ever-changing landscape in both fields.
In conjunction with the event, Research!America released a new poll that surveyed Floridians' opinions on science and media coverage of science. Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America, unveiled the poll data at the event. For more information on the poll, visit www.researchamerica.org.
Irene Maher, health writer for the St. Petersburg Times, moderated two panels. The first featured Elie Dolgin, PhD, news editor for Nature Medicine; Claudia Dreifus, science writer for The New York Times; Sheril Kirshenbaum of Bloomberg View and host of the blog Culture of Science; and Charlotte Sutton, health and medicine editor for the St. Petersburg Times.
The second panel included Judy Fortin, national director of media relations for the American Cancer Society; Fred Pearce, PhD, director and professor of the School of Mass Communications at USF; and Jack Watters, MD, vice president of External Medical Affairs for Pfizer and a Research!America board member.
Other USF speakers included Jay Dean, PhD, professor and interim chair of the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology; Eric Eisenberg, PhD, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Karen Liller, PhD, dean of the Graduate School and associate vice president for Research and Innovation; and Ralph Wilcox, PhD, provost and executive vice president.
The Hon. Michael Castle, former representative from Delaware and a Research!America board member, spoke at the American Society of Hematology Advocacy Leadership Institute in Washington, DC. He offered the congressional perspective on why research advocacy matters on Capitol Hill.
He explained that during his tenure in Congress, he was particularly touched by the stories of the patients who came to visit him. Their stories played a significant role in his decision to sponsor the Stem Cell Enhancement Acts of 2005 and 2007 which would have expanded the number of stem cell lines available for federally funded research. Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Charlie Dent (R-PA) recently introduced the Stem Cell Research Advancement Act of 2011, which is the successor of the Stem Cell Enhancement Act.
Castle told the attending ASH members that disease is not a partisan issue and encouraged them to visit their elected officials' state offices to convince them not to cut federal research funding in FY12.
"Right now," he said, "it's up to you, citizens of this country, to advocate for federal research dollars."
The Clinical Research Forum is seeking nominations for its Top 10 Clinical Research Achievement Awards. The awards will honor innovative research that has advanced knowledge of human diseases or physiology or has a considerable potential impact on the treatment of prevention of a particular disease.
Eligible entries must have been published in a peer-reviewed journal in 2010 or 2011 and performed at a U.S. institution.
The top accomplishment will be awarded the Herbert Pardes Clinical Research Excellence Award, which has a monetary component.
The Clinical Research Forum is a Research!America member, and Herbert Pardes, MD, is a Research!America board member.
For more information, visit www.clinicalresearchforum.org.
Research!America and four other organizations and individuals received awards for their work in promoting the cause of stem cell research. The Genetics Policy Institute's Stem Cell Action Awards were presented at the World Stem Cell Summit in Pasadena, CA.
Research!America was honored with the National Advocacy Award, and Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley accepted the award on behalf of the organization. Woolley is pictred at left with GPI Executive Director Bernard Siegel, JD.
Other winners included former movie executive Sherry Lansing, who received the Leadership Award; the Ontario, Canada-based science outreach organization, Let's Talk Science, which received the Education Award; the University of Minnesota Stem Cell Institute, which received the Public Advocacy Award; and patient advocate Grant Albrecht, who received the Inspiration Award.
The Food and Drug Administration has announced a series of seven initiatives to improve biomedical innovation and improve the health of Americans. The changes, the agency said, will help it keep up with the changing scientific landscape.
"America is at an important crossroads, where the science before us presents unprecedented opportunities to create new and better medical products and to promote better health for the public," FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD, said in a statement. "Our innovation blueprint highlights some of the initiatives FDA will be implementing to ensure that these opportunities are translated into safe and effective treatments that can help keep both American patients and American industry healthy and strong."
The initiatives include: rebuilding FDA's small business outreach services; building the infrastructure to drive and support personalized medicine; creating a rapid drug development pathway for important targeted therapies; harnessing the potential of data mining and information sharing while protecting patient privacy; improving consistency and clarity in the medical device review process; training the next generation of innovators; and streamlining and reforming FDA regulations.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network is the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy arm of the American Cancer Society. To achieve its mission of making cancer issues a top national priority, ACS CAN engages in lobbying, advocacy, public policy and education for the public, elected officials and policy makers, and the media.
As the nation's leading advocacy organization for people with cancer, ACS CAN supports policies and wages lobbying, grassroots and media campaigns aimed at catalyzing government action to conquer cancer.
"The fact of the matter is that cancer probably will be the biggest killer in the world this year," said Christopher Hansen, president of ACS CAN. "In the United States it will kill about 575,000 people."
The organization works to overcome the barriers to winning the war on cancer, such as tobacco use, stagnant or decreased federal funding for cancer research and programs, and many Americans' inability to access life-saving screenings and treatments because of a lack of access to adequate health care.
And above all, the issue they're most concerned about this year is ensuring robust funding for cancer research.
ACS CAN campaigns drive results. Its efforts have led to a growing number of smoke-free communities and states, higher tobacco excise taxes, improved access to cancer screenings, treatments and follow-up care, and increased funding for federal cancer research at the National Institutes of Health.
Hansen said that Research!America's mission aligns with his vision and ACS CAN's. He knows that research is vital not only to our ability to find treatments and cures for diseases but also to find the kinds of technologies that the U.S. needs to be internationally competitive.
"In our particular case, research is the key to everything," he said. "I'm very much in favor of the work that [Research!America is] doing. To me, it's a sacred mission."
For more information, visit www.acscan.org.
November brings key congressional appropriations deadlines, like the November 18 end of the stop-gap funding measure known as the "continuing resolution" and the report of the supercommittee, due out on November 23. Whether there will be a recommendation or deadlock is a topic of near-constant debate. Our focus-and that of all advocates for research-must be on keeping our issue in the forefront. My weekly letters provide up-to-the-moment suggestions for how to have impact.
There are two opportunities to link the priority of research with dates in November. On 11/11/11, a particularly momentous date for this year's Veteran's Day, there will be attention to our nation's veterans, with special consideration for our wounded warriors. The day is a time to call attention to the importance of making research on brain injury an important national focus.
The Monday before Thanksgiving-November 21 this year-is Public Health Thank You Day, a time to recognize and salute those whose important work protects individual and community health and well-being. We take so much of public health for granted. The last thing any of us would want is to sit down to Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends worried about the safety of our food. The fact that CDC and FDA are on the front lines shielding us from health hazards is a testimony to the American public's long investment in these agencies-both under threat of funding cuts. This month, be sure to tell your elected representatives to empower those agencies, and be sure to thank all those who serve us as public health professionals.
Let Congress Know that Cutting Health Agency Funding is Bad Medicine
The House and Senate have proposed FY12 federal spending levels for the National institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The outcomes are mixed. The House proposes increased funding for NIH, but cuts in funding for the other agencies. The Senate proposes higher funding levels for CDC, AHRQ and FDA than the House but proposes a cut in NIH funding. Cuts to any of these federal agencies are counterproductive to the health and well-being of Americans. Each of these agencies contributes to improving our nation's health by supporting groundbreaking research and ensuring that safe and effective treatments and cures reach the public as soon as possible. As the House and Senate debate final funding levels for FY12, it is crucial to convey the importance of NIH, CDC, AHRQ and FDA.
Op-ed: Fight for Medical Research Funding
Michael Moskowitz, a law student at the University of Virginia, wrote an op-ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on October 10 describing his personal struggle with cancer and how medical research has made a difference in his life. He cited recent polling by Research!America that shows that the vast majority of Americans support medical research. He urged Virginians to contact their congressional representatives to ask them to sustain federal funding for medical and health research.
The Next Generation of Nobel Laureates
Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America, authored a letter to the editor in The Hill on this year's winners of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. She said that providing researchers and institutions across the country with adequate funding saves lives and lays the groundwork for the next American winner of the Nobel.
The Scientist Celebrates its 25th Anniversary
The Scientist commemorated its 25th anniversary with a special issue covering the major advances in the life sciences over the past 25 years and looking ahead to the future of medical research. Woolley authored an editorial about research funding in the issue. "Research-fueled innovation is the key to business growth, job creation and-as Alzheimer's, diabetes and other expensive health conditions explode the cost of Medicare and Medicaid-federal cost containment," she wrote. "Investing in research is a deficit reduction strategy."
Research!America's chair, former Illinois Congressman John Edward Porter, recounted his work in Congress that led to the doubling of the National Institutes of Health budget in the same issue of The Scientist. He said the landscape for federal research funding today bears many similarities to the research funding landscape in 1998, the year that the NIH doubling began. Then, as now, Capitol Hill was focused on reducing the federal deficit and research funding was on the chopping block. Porter said that bipartisan alliances in Congress helped bring about the doubling of the NIH budget then and that similar alliances could help protect research funding today.
Translational Research: The American Way
Nature published a report on translational research and the gap that exists between basic research discoveries and their clinical applications. Commenting on this gap, Mary Woolley said, "Research!America polls show that two people to every one believe we aren't making enough progress in biomedical research, and that is disturbing." The article mentions recent initiatives that are successful at bridging the gap in translational research, such as the Biomarkers Consortium and the Structural Genomics Consortium.
Collins on KQED Radio
Francis Collins, MD, PhD, director of the NIH, was interviewed by the San Francisco NPR affiliate KQED. He talked about the NIH Cancer Genome Atlas-its goal is to identify genes that cause common cancers-as well as the proposed National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at NIH and a new collaboration between NIH and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
On the Monday before Thanksgiving, Research!America and its partners-the American Public Health Association, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, the Association of Schools of Public Health, the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, and the Campaign for Public Health Foundation-celebrate the contributions and dedication of the public health professionals who work to keep us safe and healthy. Public Health Thank You Day recognizes the "unsung heroes" of our daily lives-from the public health nurse to the health department worker to the safety inspector-to investigate health threats, design safety guidelines to minimize the risk of accidents, ensure our nation is prepared in the event of a pandemic or bioterrorist attack, and fulfill other critical public health responsibilities.
In the words of Public Health Hero Gary Cox, JD, "We rely on our knowledge from research and prevention to continue to keep our health in our daily lives and communities, and out of the doctor's office."
This Thanksgiving season, let us be grateful for the high quality of life we enjoy-and remember that how well we live is a direct consequence of the work our public health service providers do every day.
To find out more about how you can thank your state and local "public health heroes," visit www.researchamerica.org/ph_thank_you.
Not yet a member? Join Research!America today at www.researchamerica.org/become_member.
Download the entire November 2011 Research Advocate as a PDF.