Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

KFF: While Misconceptions Exist, Americans Supportive of Improving Health Abroad

Monday, May 21st, 2012

The Kaiser Family Foundation on Monday released a batch of public opinion polling, focused on improving health in developing countries. As an organization that loves its poll data, the results were fascinating – and, in some instances, very telling.

“Overall, our survey finds a majority of the American public believes the U.S. has a major role to play in the world, through many remain confused about the size and composition of U.S. foreign assistance,” the report states in the introduction. “We also find that providing people with accurate information has the potential to move opinion significantly.”

In short: Countering misconceptions with facts works.

For instance, only 5% of respondents answered correctly that foreign aid comprises just 1% of the federal budget. (Thirteen percent said they didn’t know or refused to answer.) Kaiser averaged out all of the answers and found that Americans believe 27% of the budget is spent on foreign aid. If you use the numbers in President Barack Obama’s FY13 budget request, 27% of the budget is equivalent to $1.026 trillion.

Kaiser then asked if the U.S. was spending too much, too little or the right amount on foreign aid. More than half (54%) said the government spends too much. Going one step further – Kaiser said it had not asked this question previously – they asked the following: “What if you heard that about 1% of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid? Would you still think that the U.S. is spending [too much/too little/about the right amount] on foreign aid, or would you now say that the U.S. spends …” To that question, 36% said too little and 30% said the right amount. Only 24% – a full 30 points less – said too much.

Misconceptions weren’t limited to something as precise as budget matters, either. The poll found that respondents’ ideas of foreign aid varied greatly. Most people said foreign aid is spent on food (31%), military/weapons/defense and health care (both 21%) and a range of other items at 10% or less, including diplomacy, basic necessities, disaster relief, education, bribes and economic aid/development.

But when the frame of the question changed, the responses did too. When asked about “spending to help developing countries” instead of “spending on foreign aid,” respondents said food (33%), health care (32%), education (13%) and basic necessities (12%), with weapons, diplomacy and bribes all scoring at 10% or less.

Even so, the poll found Americans were broadly supportive of efforts to improve health in other countries; it ranked fourth behind preventing nuclear proliferation, fighting global terrorism and providing aid to disaster-stricken areas. Examining the health aspect more closely, the poll found that 2/3 of respondents said that providing access to clean water should be the top priority. Children’s health and reducing hunger and malnutrition were also high on the list of priorities.

The survey also found that respondents realize that aiding developing countries could also have benefits at home; but, by a wide margin, said the U.S. should help because it’s the right thing to do. Fifty-one percent of respondents said that, while economic and security concerns were next at 12%.

And, the poll notes, these concerns are more consistent across ideological lines than certain domestic issues, which tend to be more divisive.

Not all was good news, however. Respondents indicated they still harbor deep skepticism that any foreign aid reaches those who most need it. Averaging all the responses, Kaiser found that, on average, Americans believe 23 cents reaches those who most need it while more than double that – 47 cents – is lost through corruption.

Another disappointing development was that – in a similar vein to many polls Research!America has conducted – a majority of respondents were unable to name even one person who they thought of as a leader in efforts to improve health in developing countries. Obama and philanthropist Bill Gates (along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) were the most cited individuals at 5% each. Former President Bill Clinton received 4%, and the remaining individuals all received 1% or less. (Organizations besides Gates were mentioned at a rate of 2%.) In all, 63% said they were unable to name anyone. The poll also found an increasing public appetite for media coverage of global health concerns, though in its commentary, indicated how difficult this would be to achieve given the looming presidential elections, which will dominate the headlines through November.

“The message here is threefold,” Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman, PhD, wrote in a blog post. “First, global health aid has the potential to be relatively popular even if foreign aid is not. It may not move votes in an election as issues like jobs and the economy can, but it could be a plus instead of a minus for elected officials. Second, information and public education — to counter misperception — can matter to the level of public support. But third, whether for foreign aid generally or global health more specifically, the ultimate obstacle to greater public support is the need to make the case effectively that aid is not ripped off and makes a difference.”

TIME Magazine’s Top 100 Nearly Devoid of Researchers

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

TIME Magazine released its 2012 Top 100 today, recognizing the 100 most influential people on the planet. Not surprisingly, the list was dominated by politicians and government leaders; the very nature of government means that people like President Barack Obama and Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will have considerable sway over the lives of 300 million Americans. The same goes for the other politicians on the list, whose power gives them the chance to shape the lives an entire population. In all, 30% of the list was comprised of heads of state, politicians or other government leaders.

We categorized the top 100 into 18 different categories, some clear cut (professional athletes), others murky (media, including but not limited to journalists, filmmakers and authors).

Guesses on the number of scientists? (You won’t need your thumb.)

Four, two of which are involved in medical research. We’ll also count statistician Hans Rosling, MD, PhD, whose use of statistics has helped improve health in Africa. The other is involved in energy engineering.

Guesses on the number of medical professionals? (Here, you will need your thumb. And only your thumb.)

One.

That’s four people out of 100 who are involved in improving health. Put differently, here are the groups more populous than medical researchers/clinicians: the aforementioned media types, athletes, actors, activists, technologists and titans of industry. By virtue of mass media and our celebrity-obsessed culture, this ought not to surprise, either.

But that doesn’t mean it’s simply worth accepting and going about our business. For years, our president and CEO, Mary Woolley, has made speeches across the country in which she’s pointed out that scientists are invisible in the public eye. We have years’ worth of poll data validating this. During the past three years, we’ve twice asked respondents to name a living scientist; in each case, more than 60% said they could not. There’s a call to action there, one we’ve made repeatedly but nonetheless deserves a fresh look. But before we do that, let’s look at the four who made the list and, just as importantly, why they made the list.

  • Ron Fouchier, PhD, of Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands. Fouchier is a virologist at the middle of the controversy surrounding the mutant H5N1 virus that raised concern about its use in bioterrorism. Fouchier was the main spokesperson for the research that was conducted, giving his take on why the research was important and the bioterrorism risk was overblown.
  • Anjali Gopalan of The Naz Foundation in India. Gopalan’s focus on HIV/AIDS in India has helped lift the disease into the limelight, where – as the TIME article notes – it was once only spoken of in whispers. Her foundation’s outreach follows parallel tracks: to marginalized populations who are affected by HIV/AIDS and to the public in order to raise awareness of the disease and preventing its spread. Because of this work, the LGBT population in India has gained far wider acceptance.
  • Robert Grant, MD, MPH, of the J. David Gladstone Institutes and the University of California, San Francisco. His breakthrough 2010 study showed that antiretroviral drugs significantly lowered transmission of HIV to HIV-negative men and women.
  • Rosling. His speech at the 2006 TED conference has been viewed just under 4 million times. Rosling’s animated graphics demonstrate our antiquated notion of the world’s haves and have-nots: Applying a fix to Africa, nor even to any of its countries, is sufficient; wide socioeconomic ranges, as every country has, necessitate local, not one-size-fits-all solutions.

Of the four, only Grant was celebrated purely for a scientific breakthrough. The other three blended research achievements and speaking out.

And that’s where the call to action is: The other three spoke out. Whether or not you agree with him, Fouchier didn’t wait for others to take to his defense. Gopalan identified a cultural problem and moved to resolve it – and significant social changes are never undertaken by one person alone from start to finish. Rosling made his work accessible; not everyone in the room had training like he did but all understood what he was trying to say.

It’s disappointing that only four people in 100 connected to improving health were identified as influencers; by contrast, three times as many people give Congress a thumb’s-up. There’s only one way to change it: Make yourself heard. Be visible in the public square. Explain what you do without lecturing. Find a way to get involved.

It can be done, but it’s up to you.

Research!America’s Statement in Response to President Obama’s FY2013 Budget

Monday, February 13th, 2012

WASHINGTON—Feb. 13, 2012—Research!America Chair, former Congressman John Edward Porter says  President Obama’s budget is a mixed bag for science and innovation, increasing investment in some areas while shortchanging other key agencies.

Porter said, “The president’s recommendation for NIH fails to capitalize on the power of this funding to drive new businesses, new jobs and new treatments. We simply cannot freeze investments in biomedical research. The consequences would be disastrous as global competition intensifies. According to recent polls commissioned by Research!America, 77 percent of Americans agree that the U.S is losing its competitive edge in science, technology and innovation. Congress needs to do the hard work of tax and entitlement reform while protecting investments that make absolute sense for our country. Now is the time for swift action on behalf of science to preserve our future. ”

Research!America president and CEO Mary Woolley said, “While we appreciate that the President increased funding for some key research agencies and promoted priorities like the National Center for the Translational Sciences and combating Alzheimer’s, we strongly believe a frozen budget for the NIH will flat line medical breakthroughs in the coming years and stifle the business and job creation that begins with research and development. Researchers will leave the field, potential breakthroughs will be shelved and new business opportunities grounded in medical discovery will evaporate as research institutions struggle with leaner budgets. We are also concerned by the significant cut to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the bedrock of basic health and safety for Americans. We urge Congress to set priorities that will sustain the full spectrum of health research from discovery to delivery.”

Research!America’s State of the Union Statement: Promising Outlook for Research and Innovation

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Research!America’s Board chair, former Congressman John Edward Porter (R-IL), applauds President Obama’s commitment to protect our nation’s investment in basic research. ”America’s leadership is at stake as other nations accelerate and prioritize their investments in discovery and development. We could potentially witness a reversal in fortune as Asia and Europe integrate science and technology into economic growth while U.S. investments in R&D decline. In China alone, R&D growth increased a remarkable 28% in a single year, placing it second behind the U.S. We must acknowledge and reverse trends that could jeopardize our world-class standing. Unfortunately, many elected officials have taken research and innovation for granted. They must realize that second-tier status will yield second-tier results in both scientific and economic output.”

The president’s charge to train more Americans in science and technology to reduce unemployment and strengthen our global competitiveness has the support of many Americans. Research!America polls show nearly 90% of those surveyed believe the federal government should place more emphasis on increasing the number of young Americans who pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math. ”We must prepare the next generation of innovators for opportunities that have yet to be tapped,” Porter adds.

Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley commends the president’s goal to spur innovation with basic research. However, funding is at risk with the prospect of automatic spending cuts for government agencies in 2013. Woolley urges Congress to spare federal health agencies from significant cuts that could impede scientific progress. ”Cutting funding for research is not a deficit reduction strategy. Research fuels economic growth and improves the quality of life for millions of Americans. President Obama’s support for basic research reflects the views of a majority of Americans who have stated in recent polls that accelerating investment in health research must be a high priority. It’s time for elected officials and candidates to elevate the importance of research in the national conversation and embrace it as a solution to maintaining our competitive edge, revitalizing the economy and transcending barriers in science and innovation.”

For more information visit www.researchamerica.org.

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: World class or second class? — and a letter from South Carolina

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Dear Research Advocate,

The data released this week from the National Science Board reinforce our choice of theme for our National Forum on March 14 (register here). Anyone who thinks the U.S. is on track to remain the undisputed world leader in research is not familiar with the facts and is probably not doing anything to alter the trajectory, either. That’s a problem, and stakeholders in research have our work cut out for us.  It would be a good start to the legislative year if President Obama emphasizes science as a national priority in his State of the Union message next Tuesday. Whatever he says (or doesn’t) in that regard, it will be a platform for speaking out – which we will do, and encourage you to do, as well.

Speaking of the president, he will release his budget in early February, and Congress will then start tearing it apart. Appropriations hearings for FY13 are expected to begin as early as March, with committee markups occurring in May and June. Despite good intentions, these bills will likely not be enacted prior to the end of the fiscal year, with a continuing resolution once again the interim outcome. This is an especially troubling scenario with a lame-duck Congress making the calls after November 6.

This scenario is further complicated by limits put in place by the Budget Control Act, passed last summer. In addition, via the “sequestration” triggered by the failure of the supercommittee last November, Congress is tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in savings or 9% across-the-board cuts to be enacted in early 2013. In essence, the year ahead guarantees fierce debates over spending. That is why your voice and your advocacy are more important than ever; there will be a lot of competition for Congress’ attention. We can’t afford to be anything less than a formidable force!

The latest BNA Medical Research Law & Policy Report features an article on the top research issues in the coming year. In the article, I stress that support for science is not a Republican or a Democratic issue, but that doesn’t mean we won’t witness partisan divisiveness – as we will on every issue in this election year. But we can and will continue to remind candidates and Members of Congress alike that research is an all-American issue that we can’t afford to put at risk.

And speaking of risky – we are putting our entire economy, as well as our health, at great risk by failing to step up research to eradicate Alzheimer’s. This week, USA Today reported on the human toll of Alzheimer’s disease and the promise of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) – a plan intended to coordinate federal research to prevent and treat the disease. Harry Johns, president of the Alzheimer’s Association and a Research!America board member, points out that the cost of Alzheimer’s expected to explode to $1 trillion by 2050. Increasing investment is more important than ever for lowering the cost of health care and for alleviating the massive disease burden on patients and their families. We all urge the president to talk about this initiative in his State of the Union message!

The South Carolina primary is just two days away. Dr. Jay Moscowitz, president of Health Sciences South Carolina and former NIH deputy director, has authored a cogent letter in The (Columbia, SC) State today on the importance of health research and the upcoming elections. Dr. Moscowitz references Research!America’s voter education initiative, Your Candidates–Your Health, urging all the candidates to respond. He writes, “It’s important for each of us to know the views of our country’s potential leaders with regard to investment in biomedical research. Do any of them have goals that will help harness the power of research to make us a healthier and more productive nation? Are they committed to maintaining America’s global competitiveness?”

To make our issue really come alive, more people, all around the country, must weigh in with the candidates. If you haven’t already, please send a message through our website to the campaigns and ask them to complete the Your Candidates–Your Health questionnaire. Health research should be a national priority. I urge you to help make sure that happens by getting involved today.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

White House Seeks Comment from Stakeholders on Bioeconomy Blueprint

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy wants to hear from you.

Back in September, President Barack Obama announced that his administration was developing a National Bioeconomy Blueprint. Now, as that development begins, OSTP is looking for input.

Specifically, they’re looking for ideas on how to achieve six goals, which were outlined on a recent OSTP blog post:

  • strategies to meet grand challenges in lean budget times;
  • commercialization and entrepreneurship opportunities to open new markets;
  • research and development investments in areas that will provide the foundation for the bioeconomy;
  • enhancements of workforce training to prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers for the bioeconomy jobs of the future;
  • regulatory reforms that will reduce unnecessary burdens and impediments while protecting health and safety, and
  • bioeconomy public-private partnerships to accelerate innovation in key areas

All are worthy goals, but all could use your input. OSTP asks you to email your thoughts to bioeconomy@ostp.gov by 11:59 ET on December 6.

This is a chance to have the administration listen to your ideas. So if you have one, what are you waiting for?

Another NIH Cut: A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Dear Research Advocate,

The Senate Appropriations Committee has acted to cut $190 million from the NIH budget. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced an amendment to restore NIH funding, but the amendment did not pass. At the time of this writing, official numbers for AHRQ and CDC have not been released, and it is not clear whether the proposed NIH cuts will be enacted.

The House Appropriations subcommittee has not held a markup of the LHHS bill, and it is now very unlikely for a markup to be held. Previous legislation passed by the House (H.R. 1) recommended deep, billion-dollar cuts to NIH and in other research agencies, but this bill was voted down by the Senate earlier this year. Long story short, the final amount of appropriations, as well as timing, remain difficult to predict. Complicating matters further: On Wednesday the House voted on a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that would fund the government through November 18, 2011. This CR provided level funding for NIH and other health research agencies and is in line with the funding levels agreed to in the Budget Control Act. This bill failed to pass, with dissent from both Democrats and Republicans, citing disagreements over spending on disaster relief.

Late last week, President Obama signed the America Invents Act. The new law enacts a major overhaul of the U.S. patent system. Among its key provisions, the legislation enables the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to hire more staff to help reduce the significant backlog in patent applications. The President specifically cited the NIH and referred to the new National Center for Advancing Translation Science (NCATS), remarking that it would help turn breakthroughs into products for patients. Following the signing, the White House announced a series of additional initiatives around the theme of moving ideas from the lab to the market. Foremost is the development of a Bioeconomy Blueprint that will outline steps for fostering commercialization, enhancing R&D investments in innovation and reforming the regulatory system. The plan, about which little is known to date, is scheduled to be released in January 2012. It’s important for the administration to hear from stakeholders in research as they prepare the blueprint. Use this link to compose your email to the White House today.

It is critical, in this time of volatility and unpredictability, not to step back and wait for the dust to settle. Policy makers in Washington need to hear the message that cutting research is not a deficit reduction strategy! Please don’t wait to step up your advocacy efforts, and please recruit others to advocate. Join our grassroots network and be sure to respond to our upcoming alerts.

This week, I’m providing a recent op-ed by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) that clearly describes the health and economic benefits of investments in medical research. I also highlight a piece written by Dr. Peter C. Adamson of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia that describes how NIH-funded research has led to dramatic improvements in treating childhood cancers. In addition, I urge you to view and share our new web page on Frequently Asked Questions about advocacy. We hope this tool will be useful in educating those who want to learn more about advocating on behalf of health research.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

Another NIH Cut (Letter #11)

Rep. Rosa DeLauro Authors an Op-Ed

On Tuesday, Rep. Rosa DeLauro published an op-ed in The Hill that illustrates the importance of medical research to our health and our economy. She explains, “We know that cutting medical research will cause job losses, even as we struggle with a full-blown jobs crisis. Every research grant awarded results in seven new jobs. And every single dollar of NIH funding is estimated to result in an additional two dollars of business activity and economic impact. This means that research has a nearly twofold return on our federal investment.”

This op-ed is especially timely following the recent cuts proposed by the Senate. Would your representatives be willing to write an op-ed on the benefits of health research? If so, contact them TODAY and offer to support them in this effort.

Funding the next generation of cancer cures

On Thursday, September 22, the Philadelphia Inquirer published an op-ed by Dr. Peter C. Adamson of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Op-ed pieces like these, which clearly connect federal funding to improved health, are highly effective advocacy tools and help educate the public about the life-saving importance of health research. Contact us for help penning your own op-ed.

White House Initiatives

After the signing of the America Invents Act, the White House introduced several initiatives relating to the bioeconomy, research and commercialization. Read the full press release here.

NIH In Your District, Your State

The NIH website has a valuable tool that tracks grants by state and/or congressional district. This is a powerful and easy-to-use tool that can prove very helpful for advocacy and for illustrating the importance of NIH funding to Members of Congress.

A Big Day for Biomedical Research

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Earlier today, President Barack Obama signed the America Invents Act into law. That act has big implications for the pharmaceutical industry, which commits a considerable amount toward medical research.

LillyPad, the blog of Research!America member Eli Lilly and Company, summarizes the new law this way:

Among other things, a new “first-inventor-to-file” system will replace the old “first-to-invent” process — meaning much more clarity and certainty will be added to the process (and presumably will cut down on unconvincing challenges). By ending the diversion of patent fees to other parts of government, the Patent and Trademark Office will be able to dig into the 700,000 applications that are backlogging the system (those are 700,000 potential inventions leading to potential jobs, by the way). And a new post-grant review process will allow potential investors to understand more about a patent before making huge financial commitments.

While this is great news for the companies that research and develop new medicines, the news got even better for researchers generally.

The Obama administration also announced seven other initiatives which it says are designed to more quickly move ideas into the market. Among them:

  • The National Institutes of Health’s newest apparatus, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, will team up with the Food and Drug Administration and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a chip that better screens new drugs for safety and efficacy – all before they’re tested in humans. This is expected to reduce costs and shorten the time of drug development costs.
  • The administration will undertake the development of what it calls the National Bioeconomy Blueprint. The Blueprint will tackle issues such as commercialization, strategic R&D investments, regulation reform, workforce training and development of public-private partnerships. The administration says it will complete the Blueprint by January.
  • Speaking of commercialization, the White House announced that leaders from 135 universities committed to working more closely with industry and other stakeholders to encourage partnerships, bolster entrepreneurship and enhance economic development.
  • The Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the Association for the Advancement of Science (a Research!America member) will offer a prize centered around best practices of university commercialization efforts.
  • The administration also announced that the Coulter Foundation has selected four universities to participate in its Translational Research Partnership program: Johns Hopkins University, the University of Louisville, the University of Missouri and the University of Pittsburgh. Each school will create a $20 million endowment meant to foster research collaboration between biomedical engineers and clinicians. That research could lead to better technology for patients and prevention efforts. (Louisville and several individual schools at Hopkins and Pitt are Research!America members.)
  • NIH’s Office of Technology Transfer will introduce new policies for small startup companies. Companies less than 5 years old and with fewer than 50 employees will be able to take advantage of ideas “sitting on the shelf” at NIH and FDA.

Obama signed the law and made remarks at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, VA, generally considered to be one of the top high schools in the country.

“To help this country compete for new jobs and businesses, we also need to invest in basic research and technology, so the great ideas of the future will be born in our labs and in classrooms like these,” Obama said. “You guys have such an unbelievable head start already, but as you go to MIT and Cal Tech and U.Va., and wherever else you guys are going to go, what you’re going to find is, is that the further you get along in your pursuits the more you’re going to be relying on research grants. And government has always played a critical role in financing the basic research that, then, leads to all sorts of inventions.

“So we’re going to have to make sure that we’re continuing to invest in basic research so you can do the work that you’re capable of.”

Eyes on the Senate: A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Dear Research Advocate,

Earlier this week, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science released its funding recommendation for various science agencies (”mark-up”). Several agency budgets were reduced, including the National Science Foundation, which was cut by 2.4% ($162 million) from FY 2011 levels. I don’t have to tell you that this is not good news and demonstrates that funding for science and health research is at great risk. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, with jurisdiction over NIH and CDC, is scheduled to do its mark-up on Tuesday (the 20th). Now is the time to reach out to your senators and make sure that they understand that investments in health research are critical to improved health and jobs for Americans. Contact your members of the Senate today: http://capwiz.com/ram/issues/alert/?alertid=53609511

More on jobs: Earlier this week, President Obama released the details of the American Jobs Act. The plan includes provisions for a variety of tax cuts, tax incentives, and proposals for reinvesting in education and infrastructure. As Congress considers this package, remind your representatives that medical innovation is a potent job creator and that federal and private sector funding complement each other to create a vibrant biomedical sector in this country. There is no infrastructure more important to U.S. job creation and economic vitality than the research and development infrastructure in place at universities, independent research institutions and private biotech firms across this nation. NIH funding is critical to their continued ability to improve health and create jobs.

I hope you tuned in for the recent Republican presidential candidate debate. Even if you didn’t, you have heard leading candidates discuss their views on the safety of vaccinations, the role of government in protecting public health, and the controversy that erupts when ideology conflicts with science. Science can and does enter the political process in unpredictable ways. When an issue emerges like this, advocates, patients and researchers alike have a responsibility to inform both the public and policy makers. Working with the media is key to accomplishing this, and that is why I’m encouraging you to write a letter to the editor or an op-ed piece that conveys the importance of medical research and of making policy decisions based on evidence. I’ve included an example below. With or without an explicit research link, health will stay in the news cycle throughout the run-up to the election, which is why every stakeholder in research should make it a priority to engage in the public dialogue. Our future depends upon it!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

On September 6, The Hill published an article titled The Cost of Savings. The article was written by Research!America Board member and New York Presbyterian President and CEO Dr. Herbert Pardes, Peter Fine and Nick Turkal. The piece articulates the importance of Medicaid, Medicare, health research and innovation. Articles like these can go a long way in informing policy makers about what is at stake during these challenging budget debates. In your own articles, make clear why health research matters and how it can help us address our growing deficit.

In addition to sending written correspondence to Congress, calling your representatives and speaking directly with health staffers is an effective advocacy tool. Use this link to find your Members. When you call, ask to speak with the staffer that handles health issues and explain why investments in health research matter and how they make a difference in your state or district. Please contact Max G. Bronstein, manager of science policy, at mbronstein@researchamerica.org if you need any assistance with talking points.

Investing in Global Health R&D

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

In an article in PLoS Neglected Tropical Disease, Peter J. Hotez, MD, PhD, proposes the U.S. government set aside approximately 1% to 2% of President Barack Obama’s Global Health Initiative (GHI) for research and development for neglected tropical diseases. Neglected tropical diseases are the most common diseases among the world’s poor: 1.4 billion who live on less than $1.25 a day, according to the World Bank. These diseases cause disabilities, often lifelong, and effect long-term earnings of those in poverty. A reallocation of funds within the GHI, Hotez writes, would help to support new health products for neglected tropical diseases to combat these illnesses and provide capacity building activities for key countries of strategic interest to the US.

By investing more in R&D for neglected tropical diseases, an increase in funds to product development partnerships (PDPs) would be essential. PDPs focus on creating technologies for global health, especially for neglected tropical diseases. Many PDPs are based in the U.S. and partnerships often extend to overseas organizations. These unique partnerships allow opportunity for improved science and technology diplomacy and perpetuate goodwill, peace and security in foreign countries.

Most of the world’s neglected tropical diseases are believed to occur in areas of the greatest U.S. geopolitical interests. The most heavily affected nations include those comprising the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, as some of the worst affected nations include the poorest Islamic countries, such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sudan, Mali and Chad; they also include powerful middle-income nations with nuclear weapons capabilities such as India, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea.

The U.S. government is committed to global health R&D and, under the GHI, has committed to invest $15 billion annually on development assistance for global health. However, only a small amount of funds are allotted for R&D for neglected tropical diseases. By investing more in R&D for neglected tropical diseases, greater opportunities and security could be provided for the U.S.

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Research Creates Jobs

Friday, September 9th, 2011

Dear Research Advocate,

The debate in Washington has shifted. While deficit reduction remains a key objective, jobs are the top priority and will undoubtedly be a key issue through the coming elections. Now is the time for the research community to stand up and with many voices send a unified message loud and clear: research creates jobs. There is overwhelming public sentiment for the government to step up and take action to improve the economy through job creation; what the public and their decision-makers don’t know, unless we tell them, is that research is a significant part of the answer right now.

This week, as both the Republican candidates’ debate and President Obama’s address emphasize job creation, I’m providing several tools to help you make the case to your representatives for research as a job creator and economic driver. Use these when writing an op-ed, calling or emailing your representatives, and when informing others about the benefits of research.

This week, Research!America has released its 2010 U.S. Investment in Health Research Report. Overall health research investment is nearly stagnant, and federal investment has decreased by $550 million since 2009. This is unacceptable at a time when increased investment is needed to boost our economy and to help patients across the country. Use this information to help make the case that the U.S. is falling behind by failing to invest and create the new jobs and new treatments that are desperately needed.

Also this week, the World Economic Forum, a global economic group, released its latest rankings of the world’s most competitive economies. The U.S. was ranked fifth behind countries like Finland and Sweden and continues to lose ground in the rankings since 2008, when the US was ranked first. The authors of the report cited the federal deficit and declining public faith in government for the lowered U.S. ranking. This trend is clearly bad news for the U.S., and should come as a wakeup call to policy makers. Smart investments in research will help grow our economy, bolster our flagging global competitiveness as countries like China increase their support for domestic R&D, reduce the cost of health care, and get our deficit under control.

Last week, the Tulsa World published a letter to the editor written by a researcher that clearly highlighted the economic importance of federal investments in research. On Tuesday, the Hattiesburg American published a letter written by an American Heart Association volunteer that illustrates how medical research can decrease the cost burden of disease. These letters are exactly what are needed now and across the country. Remember to use local media to amplify your message to policy makers and to the public — write a letter to the editor or an op-ed today. Contact Max Bronstein at mbronstein@researchamerica.org if we can be of assistance.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

Research creates jobs (Letter # 9)
As the nation’s focus is squarely on job creation, we urge you to use these tools to make the case for health research. Remember to convey that cutting medical research is not a deficit reduction strategy. Cuts will hurt job creation and slow medical innovation. Federal support for research epitomizes a public-private partnership that works.

In May 2011, United for Medical Research released a report titled An Economic Engine – NIH Research, Employment, and the Future of the Medical Innovation Sector. Key findings include:

  • In 2010, NIH investment supported nearly 488,000 jobs and produced $68 billion in new economic activity across the U.S.
  • In 2010, NIH research awards totaled nearly $22 billion, supporting research at universities, hospitals, small businesses and independent research institutes in every state

Find the data for your state and use it in your congressional outreach.

In May 2011, Battelle Technology Partnership Practice released a report titled Economic Impact of the Human Genome Project (HGP). Key findings include:

  • The $3.8 billion government investment in the HGP resulted in a staggering $796 billion return on investment to the U.S. economy
  • This investment resulted in support for 310,000 jobs in 2010 with average annual incomes of nearly $64,000

The Ad-Hoc Group for Medical Research released a two-page fact sheet that demonstrates the impact of medical research across the country. Draw on these examples to show Congress and the public that investments in research are worth every penny.

Use these points to demonstrate to policy makers that research is a keystone of our state and local economies. We need to continue to invest in research to improve health in order to power our economy and keep Americans healthy. Call or write your representatives today, and tell the story of how health research is creating jobs in your community. Use this link to find the contact information for your Members of Congress: http://capwiz.com/ram/dbq/officials/

New Report: U.S. Investment in Health Research Remains Stagnant

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC—September 8, 2011—The U.S. public and private sectors invested $140.5 billion in 2010 on research to find new ways to treat, cure and prevent disease and disability, according to Research!America’s latest annual estimate.

Health research spending accounted for only 5.5% of the $2.6 trillion the U.S. spent on health care in 2010. Health research as a percentage of health care spending has hovered around 5.5% since 2005, remaining essentially stagnant.

Investment in health research experienced only a 1% growth over 2009 levels, from $139 billion in 2009 to $140.5 billion in 2010. This small increase was not enough to keep pace with the rise in the cost of conducting health research.

“These findings are alarming,” said Research!America’s chair, former Congressman John E. Porter. “When health research funding stays flat, medical progress stalls, our innovation economy is affected and American jobs are lost.”

Federal funding for research conducted by the National Institutes of Health in 2010 supported nearly 500,000 jobs and produced $68 billion in economic activity according to a report released earlier this year by United for Medical Research (UMR).

“A nation receives great economic and health benefits from its investment in medical and health research,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. “Other nations have learned this lesson from the U.S. and are now outstripping us in the pace they are ramping up their investment.”

“We urge President Obama to include sustained, strong investment in research as a core component of the jobs plan he will be introducing to the Congress and the nation this evening,” she added.

According to Research!America’s 2010 U.S. Investment in Health Research report, industry was the largest source of health research funding in 2010 at $76.5 billion, which represents a 2.9% increase over 2009. Federal funding went from $46.8 billion in 2009 to $45.9 billion in 2010, experiencing a decrease. Health research spending at universities increased by 5.6% over 2009. Philanthropic investment in health research decreased by 19% over 2009. The voluntary health organization sector saw a decrease in health research spending of 13%.

Research!America has issued estimates of the US investment in health research since 2002. All reports in the series are available online at www.researchamerica.org/research_investment.

Research!America is the nation’s largest nonprofit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority. Founded in 1989, Research!America is supported by member organizations that represent the voices of 125 million Americans. Visit www.researchamerica.org.

Kirk Hosts Stem Cell Symposium at Northwestern University

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) hosted a stem cell symposium at the Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine on Monday, using the event to nudge Congress toward adopting policy to allow stem cell research.

“The potential of stem cell research to cure Alzheimer’s, cancer or diabetes is limitless if we aggressively support American medical research,” Kirk said, according to a story on Northwestern’s website. “Stem cell research offers the best promise to cure juvenile diabetes and certain blood cancers. That is why I believe Republicans and Democrats should unite behind keeping the United States first in medical research.”

Embryonic stem cell research is governed by executive order by the president; Kirk wants the most recent executive order from President Barack Obama to become law.

Kirk was joined at the symposium by Jack Kessler, MD, and Richard Fessler, MD, PhD, both of whom are stem cell researchers at Feinberg; Elizabeth McNally, MD, PhD, director of the University of Chicago Institute for Cardiovascular Research; Amarjit Virdi, PhD, graduate director at Rush University Medical Center in the Division of Anatomy and Cell Biology; and Jonny Imerman – a cancer survivor – and 9-year old Jared Kuper, a regional youth ambassador for the American Diabetes Association.

Kirk said that ongoing legal challenges – specifically Sherley v. Sebelius – have made it necessary to codify Obama’s executive order.

“If senior Democratic senators choose not to move this legislation in this Congress, I will,” Kirk said.

Uncertainty over federal funding hurts science and “is a huge disincentive to our young and most promising investigators to do human embryonic stem cell research,” Kessler said, according to the Associated Press.

Feinberg School of Medicine, the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine and the American Diabetes Association are all Research!America members.

30 Years of AIDS

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Thirty years ago, it began with a report in the Center for Disease Control’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on June 5, 1981.

In the period October 1980-May 1981, 5 young men, all active homosexuals, were treated for biopsy-confirmed Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia at 3 different hospitals in Los Angeles, California. Two of the patients died. All 5 patients had laboratory-confirmed previous or current cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection and candidal mucosal infection.

The dawn of the AIDS epidemic occurred 30 years ago this weekend.

The federal government’s AIDS portal, aids.gov, is looking back on the past 30 years with a series of online features. Among them are a timeline; videos from members of President Barack Obama’s administration; a retrospective with Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; and a host of other resources.

Also released this week was a special report from Reuters, the British news agency, takes a look at a possible endgame for the AIDS epidemic.

Such talk is highly speculative, of course, and the article says as much. But it reports that scientists are intrigued by Timothy Ray Brown. An HIV-positive American living in Berlin – he would later become known as “the Berlin patient” – Brown suffered a relapse of leukemia and seemed near the end of his battle. But a radical treatment saved his life: a bone-marrow transplant using cells from people with a genetic mutation found to be HIV resistant. But after the transplant, Brown became (and remains) the only human ever cured of AIDS.

Brown’s successful procedure beat a number of difficult odds; experts quoted by Reuters say it would be impossible for such a procedure to scaled up for any number of reasons: its riskiness, its expense, and the fact that only a small portion of the world’s population carries this genetic mutation. The purpose it does serve, however, is to show researchers that a cure is possible.

The story also notes that even discussion of such a goal – however far off it may be – is evidence of how far AIDS treatment has come. In the 1990s, a compound was found to repel AIDS, but subsequent testing found its effectiveness lagged the longer it was used. In the years after, talk of a cure became taboo; one researcher told the news agency that scientists were not interested in raising hope where none existed.

Now, there is hope – if not for a cure, then for continued treatments that prevent AIDS from becoming a death sentence.

“I’m not thinking about death at all,” Vuyiseka Dubula, an HIV-positive AIDS activist in South Africa, told Reuters. “I’m taking my treatment and I’m living my life.”

The Parallels of the Genetic Code and Memes

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011
Twenty years after scoring his first hit, British singer Rick Astley became an Internet phenomenon.

Twenty years after scoring his first hit, British singer Rick Astley became an Internet phenomenon.

Chain letters, whose origins date to nearly a century before the Internet, viral marketing and even Rickrolling all have a curious, scientific parallel: the genetic code.

According to a story in the May issue of Smithsonian magazine, memes (ideas that are spread to others) and the genetic code have several common characteristics: each meme is passed on to a new host; they can rearrange elements of their makeup; and they can evolve over time.

That observation comes from Jacques Monod, PhD, a Nobel laureate in 1965 who died 11 years later – just as the first publications were being written about ARPANET, the Internet’s predecessor. The story’s author, James Gleick, notes that this observation preceded even the DARPA-era Internet, when only a handful of academic centers were connected through a network. Noted evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, DPhil, picked up the theme – it was Dawkins who coined the term “meme.”

The article, which clocks in at nearly 3,950 words according to LongReads.com, is a fascinating look at where memes came from, how they’re classified and what makes them carry on as they do.

A sample, with some themes most familiar to researchers:

Like genes, memes have effects on the wide world beyond themselves. In some cases (the meme for making fire; for wearing clothes; for the resurrection of Jesus) the effects can be powerful indeed. As they broadcast their influence on the world, memes thus influence the conditions affecting their own chances of survival. The meme or memes comprising Morse code had strong positive feedback effects …

Perhaps the analogy with disease was inevitable. Before anyone understood anything of epidemiology, its language was applied to species of information. An emotion can be infectious, a tune catchy, a habit contagious. “From look to look, contagious through the crowd / The panic runs,” wrote the poet James Thomson in 1730. Lust, likewise, according to Milton: “Eve, whose eye darted contagious fire.” But only in the new millennium, in the time of global electronic transmission, has the identification become second nature. Ours is the age of virality: viral education, viral marketing, viral e-mail and video and networking. Researchers studying the Internet itself as a medium—crowdsourcing, collective attention, social networking and resource allocation—employ not only the language but also the mathematical principles of epidemiology.

Indeed, in the communication age, information needs seconds to travel globally. Contrast that with one of Gleick’s examples, Sir Isaac Newton. Despite being one of the most famous men in England in his day, only a few thousand people had any idea what he looked like. Today, people around the world recognize the likeness of President Barack Obama or basketball player LeBron James.

Gleick also cites “jumping the shark” as another example; in the days of digital communication, there are boundless others: Rickrolling, “all your base are belong to us,” Cigar Guy and a Coke geyser – all being continually updated, passed on and giving way to the latest sensation.

Research!America Statement on President Obama’s State of the Union Message

Friday, January 28th, 2011

WASHINGTON—January 28, 2011— In his State of the Union address, President Obama emphasized the importance of investment in innovation and research for our health, our economy and our quality of life. The President set a compelling goal: “Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation. But because it’s not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout history our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need… We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology—an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.”

Research!America’s board chair, former Congressman John Edward Porter (R-IL), praised President Barack Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address. Porter said: “By supporting America’s scientific enterprise, from taxpayer-supported basic research to industry fueled by enlightened policies that promote, rather than impeding research, President Obama is 100 percent on the right track toward ‘winning the future’ for our nation. America’s scientists are ready to respond to the challenge of innovation, with the knowledge that the public and our elected representatives are solidly behind their success. Research!America’s public opinion polls have repeatedly emphasized that American citizens support heightened investment in research. Maintaining our stature as the world leader in research and innovation is at the core of American values. The State of the Union speech served as an inspiration to the researchers and entrepreneurs who lay the groundwork for American prosperity.”

“We are encouraged that in his upcoming 2012 budget, President Obama will prioritize his commitment to investment in science, research and innovation, as well as a re-emphasis on science, technology, math and engineering education,” said Research!America President Mary Woolley. “Our nation’s health and our economy depend on it.”

Research!America is the nation’s largest nonprofit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority. Founded in 1989, Research!America is supported by member organizations that represent the voices of 125 million Americans.

More Reaction to the President’s State of the Union

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Responses to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night continue to roll in. Given the time he dedicated to innovation and research, there has been much to react to.

Several groups were happy to see Obama’s focus on innovation and research.

“We are especially pleased to hear that [the president] will make investment in biomedical research a priority in his 2012 budget,” William T. Talman, MD, president of FASEB, said in a statement. “This will promote innovation, create new technologies, improve health and revitalize the economy.”

Alan Leshner, PhD, the CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science – and a Research!America board member – offered a three-pronged response to Obama’s address.

1) “We applaud the President’s emphasis on science, engineering and technology research and education as the fuel for innovation and economic growth and prosperity. The scientific community is ready to respond with vigor.”

2) “Although we understand the need to reign in overall spending, we also don’t want to limit the country’s future growth by under-investing in science and technology, which drive innovation and economic progress as well as medical advances.”

3) “We applaud the wisdom in continuing to invest in science and technology, the fuel for the nation’s future economy and quality of life and health.”

Health care – and the battle to repeal health care reform – was also mentioned. Thomas Strauss, president and CEO of Summa Health System, said in a YouTube video that the key to healing our health care system is to change its focus.

“We have a sick care system in this country. So we get paid as hospitals when patients are sick,” Strauss said. “And we need to flip that toward wellness and value and preventative medicine and change that.”

The American Medical Association and its president, Cecil B. Wilson, MD, were happy to hear of Obama’s willingness to work on some of the more controversial aspects of health care reform, like liability reform and lessening the amount of paperwork required by small businesses.

PhRMA President John J. Castellani added, “While innovation and American competitiveness were also central themes in the president’s address, we believe that medical innovation specifically will continue to play a crucial role in advancing patient health and spurring economic growth in the U.S. The president recognized this crucial point tonight, as he stressed the need for investments in biomedical research.”

Eli Lilly & Co.’s LillyPad blog – always a worthwhile read if you’re interested in science policy – shared some interesting links. There’s a report from DC-based Federal News Radio, which talks about the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy increasing role, and how the future may mean even more responsibility. LillyPad also links to a writer, Brian Reid, and his reaction about the timeframe of Obama’s pronouncements; Reid’s own experience with George W. Bush’s State of the Union seven years ago plays into how long it will be until Obama’s words become reality.

(LillyPad’s own reaction is here.)

FASEB, AAAS, Summa Health System, AMA, PhRMA and Eli Lilly and Co. are all Research!America members.

Senate Omnibus Spending Bill Contains Boosts for NIH, NSF

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Late Tuesday, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), chair of that body’s Appropriations Committee, released his version of an omnibus bill that would fund the federal government through September. Inouye’s version includes increased money for the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, according to a ScienceInsider report.

A PDF of the bill is available on the Appropriations Committee’s website, and language for the NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention begins on page 984.

The House’s continuing resolution, passed last week, limited all federal spending to 2010 levels. But Inouye’s bill provides a portion of President Barack Obama’s requested funding increases. ScienceInsider wrote that NIH would get $750 million more for the coming year, while NSF would receive $419 million more – part of $20 billion in domestic discretionary spending. Those increases come close to Obama’s requests: $1 billion for NIH and $498 million for NSF.

But the increases are far from a done deal. If the Senate manages to pass Inouye’s version, the House would also have to pass the same bill, which seems likely. But if fiscal conservatives are able to thwart Inouye, that could push a vote to the next Congress, which will have a far higher number of fiscal conservatives.

CR Effects on NIH, AHRQ

Monday, December 13th, 2010

A continuing resolution to fund the government through next year was passed by the House last week. The Senate has also begun work on the bill, but no timetable has been set for when the Senate might vote on it. The Senate’s version will likely be amended into an omnibus spending bill.

The CR totals $1.1 trillion and freezes discretionary spending at current levels.

So what will that mean for the National Institutes of Health and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality?

The Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, of which Research!America is a member, has sent letters to each senator urging them to pass an omnibus appropriations bill that includes a $750 million increase in NIH funding.

“A long-term, continuing resolution (CR) at the FY 2010 spending levels will slow research progress and squander invaluable scientific opportunities, to the detriment of our nation’s health and our ability to maintain leadership in the global innovation economy,” the Ad Hoc Group letter read. “Recent investments have created dramatic new research opportunities in areas ranging from genetics to behavioral research, spurring advancements and precipitating the promise of personalized medicine that will yield far-reaching health and economic benefits … It is critically important that we continue to capitalize on the momentum of previous investments to drive research progress, train the next generation of scientists, create jobs, and promote economic growth.”

The Friends of AHRQ, of which Research!America is also a member, recently circulated an e-mail update that indicated both the president and the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee would have provided for a considerable increase in AHRQ funding.

As it stands, the CR provides $397 million for AHRQ, as well as $12 million from the Prevention and Public Health Fund. The e-mail states that omnibus funding for AHRQ is also likely $397 million, but exact figures aren’t yet known.

According to Friends of AHRQ, President Barack Obama had originally asked for $611 million for AHRQ, but amended his budget to $508 million shortly after the passage of the Affordable Care Act. The Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee had budgeted for $411 million plus $10 million from the Prevention and Public Health Fund. The Senate Appropriations Committee left funding flat at $397 million while including $17 million from the Fund.

The current CR expires Saturday.

Analysis of the CR’s effect on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is ongoing.