Senators Harkin, Kennedy and Specter Honored as Champions of Research for Health

Sen. Tom Harkin (IA) “Without research, we wouldn’t have breakthroughs. It’s not about discovery for the sake of discovery, but for the sake of better health and saving lives,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (IA), at a Capitol Hill event Tuesday honoring him, Sen. Arlen Specter (PA) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (MA).

The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation and Research!America recognized the senators for their leadership for research and for highlighting the importance of a shared commitment to making research for health a high national priority.

Elias A. Zerhouni, MD The awards ceremony at the Russell Senate Office Building was emceed by Elias A. Zerhouni, MD, former National Institutes of Health director, and was attended by distinguished scientists, Nobel laureates, members of Congress and other leaders in health research community, including Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, nominee for NIH director, and Nobel Laureate Joseph Goldstein, MD.

Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD Zerhouni recognized Collins and said, “There couldn’t be a better person to handle the NIH stimulus funding than Francis, and it couldn’t be better timing. Francis, do good work.”

In his remarks, Senator Harkin said he was all but certain that Collins’ nomination would be approved in the Senate before its August recess. He then spoke of his own commitment to NIH.

“I have always believed that it is a prime responsibility of the federal government to support the National Institutes of Health,” he said. “In the six decades since World War II, the United States has been the global leader in science, biomedical research and technological innovation. We have been respected, admired, even held in awe for our dazzling advances and breakthroughs. But our work is not over yet, which is why I will continue to work to fund medical research.”

In closing, Harkin called on advocates: “The next great challenge is solid funding for 2011. We’re going to need all of your advocating in the next year so we don’t fall off the (funding) cliff. Redouble your efforts!”

Alfred Sommer, MD, MHS, Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation chair, said, “Senator Harkin’s prioritization of our investment in medical research, including embryonic stem cell research, and his unwavering support for NIH has helped to ensure the future of basic science and the promise of cures through clinical advances.”

Sen. Arlen Specter (PA)Senator Specter, in his acceptance remarks, spoke about federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and his plans for future NIH funding.

“I am honored to be recognized, along with my esteemed colleagues Senator Harkin and Senator Kennedy, for my work in the Senate to advance health and medical research,” he said. “Health is one of our nation’s greatest capital assets and I will continue to fight to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health and to press forward in seeking cures for the maladies of the world.”

The Honorable John Edward Porter, Research!America chair, said, “During his 30-year career as a senator, Arlen has been a tireless advocate for research to improve lives, exhibiting a masterful ability to translate medical research and scientific advances into language that leaders and the public can understand.”

Mrs. William McCormick BlairAlthough Senator Kennedy was unable to attend, his lifelong friend and FNIH board member Mrs. William McCormick Blair accepted on his behalf. “Teddy deeply appreciates the award and has deep respect for the impact of Research!America. He loved Mary Lasker, and he created the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health,” she said. “As a nation we have an extraordinary scientific imagination. We can change the major causes of death, disease and disability and enhance our quality of life.”

Charles A. Sanders, MD, FNIH chair, said, “Senator Kennedy has set the stage for realizing the hope for a healthier nation with his courageous support of NIH and other federal research agencies, embryonic stem cell research and mental health, and his advocacy for reducing health disparities.”

Check soon for photos from the event at the Web sites of the three host organizations.

The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation is a leading biomedical research advocacy group founded in 1942. Its programs are dedicated to the support of biomedical research toward conquering disease, improving human health and extending life. See

The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health was established by the United States Congress to support the mission of the National Institutes of Health: improving health through scientific discovery. See

Research!America is the nation’s largest non-profit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority. See

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