Posts Tagged ‘MIT’

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Muddy Waters for Health Research Funding

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Dear Research Advocate,

The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies (Labor-H) Appropriations subcommittee held a hearing Wednesday on NIH funding for FY13. Dr. Francis Collins testified along with several institute directors on opportunities and challenges facing NIH. The good news; both the chairman and the ranking member (Sen. Tom Harkin [D-IA] and Sen. Richard Shelby [R-AL]) of the subcommittee expressed support for increasing the NIH budget. The bad news: It was also emphasized that budget constraints may well prevent such an increase. Thankfully, the subcommittee expressed strong concern over the impact of sequestration, which would impose an across-the-board cut of between 7% and 9% on NIH, CDC, AHRQ and the other health research agencies. The negative impact of sequestration on defense spending has received a great deal of attention on the Hill, but its impact on medical research and other spending priorities has not received the attention it deserves.

The House also held a hearing this week that examined NIH funding as part of a broad look at the agencies and programs under the jurisdiction of the House Labor-H Appropriations subcommittee. Several Research!America members provided excellent testimony at that hearing: the American Association for Dental Research; the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; the Children’s Hospital Association; Columbia University Medical Center; FasterCures; the McLaughlin Research Institute; and the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research. Their testimony was very timely, as the House is expected to consider legislation today that would cut the federal budget in FY13 by $19 billion more than the cuts enacted as part of last year’s Budget Control Act. It appears that all of these additional cuts would be directed toward non-defense discretionary spending, which would place health research funding at even greater risk.

What I gleaned from these hearings is that while there are certainly Members of Congress who strongly support NIH, increased funding for the institutes and other health research agencies is perceived more as wishful thinking than as a strategic imperative. We must convince policy makers that because of, not despite, the current budget environment, it would be counterproductive to let medical research funding stagnate. That’s because medical research funding leads to job and business creation, which in turn increases federal revenues that are needed to drive down the deficit. Further, medical research is our best weapon against the staggering federal health care costs associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic illnesses. Finally, the future of our economy depends on our ability to compete globally, and medical innovation is particularly fertile soil for new products with global market reach.

We can’t afford complacency when American lives and the American dream hang in the balance. Call, write or visit your Member of Congress. Do the same for new candidates for federal office. Write an op-ed or letter to the editor. Start a Facebook campaign. Use Twitter to get the message out. Medical innovation is imperiled, and we cannot wish the problem away. We need to act.

Dedicated graduate students from MIT, with assistance from students at Johns Hopkins University, are doing their part. They visited Capitol Hill on Tuesday to share a petition about the importance of federal research funding. The Stand With Science initiative, started at MIT, gathered more than 10,000 signatures, which were delivered to the Massachusetts delegation and other key congressional leaders. Research!America supported the effort and was pleased to see media coverage of the event.

Do you know how a sequester (a 7% to 9% across-the-board budget cut) would affect NIH? United for Medical Research has released a report on the impact of cuts to NIH, focusing on the potential impact of sequestration. In addition, see their recent update on state job creation from NIH funding in 2011. As you well know, job creation is a critical challenge facing our nation – be sure to use these numbers in your outreach and advocacy efforts.

Speaking of health and job creation, global health R&D is a critical component of our nation’s biosciences sector, fueling job creation and combating diseases that take lives and cross borders. To learn more, join Research!America in New York City on Monday, April 9, at the New York Academy of Sciences for our forum, Global Health Research and Development in New York: Fueling Innovation and Saving Lives. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), influential global health commentator Laurie Garrett and renowned researchers and industry leaders will discuss the multifaceted benefits of global health R&D as a local economic driver and a weapon against insidious diseases that, directly or indirectly, affect us all. To register and learn more, click here.

Finally, last week I shared lessons learned from our March 14th National Health Research Forum.  Click here to view video highlights from the event. Put March 13, 2013, on your calendar and join us at next year’s events


Mary Woolley

Authors of Landmark Study on Economic Benefits of Advanced Medical Care for At-Risk Newborns Receive Garfield Economic Impact Award

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

WASHINGTON—December 8, 2011—The authors of a groundbreaking study on the economic benefits of advanced medical care for at-risk newborns today received the 2011 Garfield Economic Impact Award. Douglas Almond; Joseph J. Doyle, Jr.; Amanda E. Kowalski; and Heidi Williams are being honored for their paper titled “Estimating Marginal Returns to Medical Care: Evidence from At-Risk Newborns.” The award, presented by Research!America, recognizes the outstanding work of economists who demonstrate how medical and health research impacts the economy. The award is supported by a grant from Merck & Co., Inc.

The study, published in The Quarterly Journal of Economics, shows that advanced medical care enables very low birth weight babies to “beat the odds” and survive at greater rates than would be expected based on birth weight alone.

The cost of medical treatments for at-risk newborns has increased considerably in recent years. In the U.S., preterm and low-birth weight diagnoses accounted for 8% of newborn admissions but 47% of costs for all infant hospitalizations, according to the paper. Using hospital discharge records for births in five states from 1991 to 2006, the authors found that newborns with birth weights just below 1,500 grams often have higher charges and more frequent medical interventions than babies at slightly higher weights. The authors found that when an intensive level of care was applied, very low birth weight babies defied expectation by surviving at greater rates than the higher birth weight babies. Despite the need for highly intensive care, the cost of saving the life of a newborn with birth weight near 1,500 grams is well below most value of life estimates.

Research!America’s chair, former Congressman John Edward Porter (R-IL), said, “The study demonstrates the net positive economic impact of advanced medical care for a highly vulnerable population. We applaud the winners for contributing policy-relevant evidence on the value of such care.”

“Though we have focused on the impact of medical care for at-risk newborns, we hope that our methodology will also shed light on the impact of medical care for other populations,” said Kowalski on behalf of the award recipients.

The 2011 Garfield Award was presented at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC. The ceremony was followed by a panel discussion featuring award winner Amanda Kowalski, assistant professor of economics, Economics Department, Yale University; Alan Guttmacher, the director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child and Human Development; Tomas Philipson, a past winner of the Garfield Award and the Daniel Levin Professor of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago; and Billie Short, chief of neonatology at Children’s National Medical Center. Al Hunt, executive editor for Bloomberg News in Washington, DC, and the host of Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” moderated the discussion.

Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America, said, “We are extremely pleased with the extraordinary work of these economists in analyzing the return on investment with advanced medical care for at-risk newborns. Their research underscores the cost savings associated with evidence-based, cutting-edge treatment.”

About the 2011 Recipients

Douglas Almond is an associate professor, Department of Economics and School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), Columbia University. Amanda E. Kowalski is an assistant professor of economics, Economics Department, Yale University. Joseph E. Doyle Jr. is an associate professor of economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management. Heidi Williams is an assistant professor, Department of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

About Research!America

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 For more information on the Garfield Award, visit

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Make Sure the Supercommittee Gets the Message

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Dear Research Advocate,

As the supercommittee’s November 23 deadline nears, there are glimmers of bipartisanship. Last week, 100 members of the House, 40 Republicans and 60 Democrats, sent a letter to the supercommittee urging them to find $4 trillion (versus $1.2 trillion low-bar goal) in savings. There is talk of revenue increases, which would help alleviate some of the pressure to cut discretionary spending. And not a minute too soon, especially with young scientists’ future – and their future contributions – at stake. A group of graduate students from MIT have just launched to protect funding for science. In just a few days, they have gathered over 2,000 signatures for a letter to the supercommittee – add your signature TODAY and share with your networks!

Speaking of young scientists, The New York Times this week published letters to the editor in response to an article called Why Science Majors Change Their Minds (It’s Just So Darn Hard). Prof. Stuart Firestein of Columbia University wrote: “American students change their majors because they recognize that this country has stopped providing a reasonable future for scientists, with slashed budgets for the National Science Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration and National Institutes of Health. For Chinese and Indian students, science remains a way out of poverty. For American students, it’s becoming the path into it.” Prof. Firestein and StandwithScience have hit the nail on the head. If you agree, it’s time to do your part – write or call your elected representative today about exempting science from any cuts by the supercommittee. Research and innovation are the key to growing the economy, not the way to reduce the deficit.

Tomorrow, 11/11/11, is Veteran’s Day. After two decade-long wars, the prevalence of PTSD and TBI is alarming. The number of service members who die from suicide rivals the number killed in combat and accounts for 20% of all suicides in this country. Research!America’s poll data indicates that even in the current climate of demands for cuts everywhere, a full 50% of Americans feel that the current level of government investment in health research for the benefit of veterans is not enough. And they are right! We can honor military service by making a stronger investment that will help our troops remain healthy and productive. Veteran’s Day is an ideal opportunity to address these issues in an op-ed or a letter to the editor. We can help you write it!

Our Your Candidates-Your Health election year voter education initiative is now underway, thanks to the support of our partners. Research!America needs your help now in urging the Presidential candidates to respond to a questionnaire they have received. Please send a message to the presidential campaigns to urge them to complete the questionnaire and get on the record with their views on our issues. We’ve also created a Tweet Sheet with suggested Twitter messages to send to the presidential campaigns. Please get involved in this initiative and spread the word so that research for health will be part of the conversation during the next 12 months. If candidates don’t talk about our issues before they are elected, there is little chance they will do so after taking office!

Mary Woolley

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.”

New Technology Could Help to Diagnose PTSD

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Researchers at Draper Laboratory are working to develop a new technology that could reliably diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder.

This is no easy feat. No test exists to accurately diagnose PTSD. It is also difficult to distinguish it from traumatic brain injury or other similar anxiety disorders, which can often have similar symptoms but require different treatments.

According to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology publication, the researchers conducted a pilot study of seven people with PTSD, seven healthy people and 11 people with non-PTSD trauma by measuring differences in heart rate, finger pulse, respiration and skin conductance when the participants were calm and when they were shown alarming scenes using virtual reality goggles.

The researchers at Draper hope to detect PTSD by creating algorithms from the data they collected. Preliminary analysis is still under way, but the data look promising.

This groundbreaking technology could also help assess the effectiveness of existing PTSD treatments, as the disorder is difficult to treat. The most common forms of PTSD treatment that currently exist are talk therapy or medications.

While it affects 3.5% of the U.S. adult population, PTSD has a higher prevalence in the military, where it can be triggered by trauma experienced in war. A recent poll by Research!America indicates that Americans would embrace a technology of this kind: The poll found that fully half of Americans don’t think government support for health research for the benefit of military veterans and service members is enough.

MIT is a Research!America member.

President Obama Intends to Nominate MIT Engineering Dean to NSF Director Post

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

President Barack Obama announced June 3 his intent to nominate Subra Suresh, PhD, ScD, as Director of the National Science Foundation.

Suresh currently serves as Dean of the School of Engineering and as Vannevar Bush Professor of Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, at which he has held many positions. Before he joined MIT in 1993, Suresh taught in the Division of Engineering at Brown University. He has been recognized internationally through his election to numerous academies, including the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, the Indian National Academy of Engineering, the Academy of Sciences of the Developing World, and the German National Academy of Sciences.

In 2007, the Federation of European Materials Societies awarded Suresh with its highest honor, the European Materials Medal. Suresh earned a bachelor’s degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, a Masters of Science from Iowa State University, and a Doctor of Science degree from MIT, along with honorary doctorate degrees from the Technical University of Madrid and the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.