Posts Tagged ‘National Institutes of Health’

Global health is America’s health: US Department of Health and Human Services announces first global health strategy

Friday, January 6th, 2012

“Our primary mission at HHS is to keep Americans healthy and safe.”  HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius opened this week’s announcement of the Department’s first ever global health strategy by reminding everyone that global health is America’s health. Putting global health into perspective, Sebelius stated, “diseases can spread faster and more unpredictably than ever before. As recently as 1963, just 26,000 passengers came through the Dulles Airport. In 2010, 6.4 million international passengers passed through Dulles. More than a million people drive across our borders, dock in our ports or land in our airports every day and any one of them can bring a new virus or bug. And it’s not just people – two-thirds of our food supply is imported. We must take a global approach to improving Americans’ health. The US can and should play an active effort in shaping a healthy world. Health is an issue that aligns all countries around the world.”

The strategy lays out three main goals and ten objectives for global health engagement, reflecting its efforts to prioritize and maximize results. As Nils Daulaire, HHS responded to an audience member’s question on implementation of a bold strategy in this economic and political climate, “the tighter things are, the more important it is to have a strategy that helps us deal with where we are now.” This report helps us show how we’re all working together in an integrated way and making the best investments possible. During the briefing, panelists praised the strategy for its integration of various Health and Human Services agencies, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, its coordination with other US departments involved in global health and its priority setting among other U.S. government strategies, such as the Global Health Initiative. Research!America’s U.S. agency fact sheets capture the contributions and unique value of each of these agencies and departments in global health and global health R&D.

The panel also highlighted the importance of global health as a foreign policy issue, contributing to the security and stability of the world. Kerri Ann Jones, U.S. State Department stated, “we need to know what’s going on around the world to know how and what will affect us.” While this is “money well spent” as stressed by Helene Gayle, CARE, fellow panelist Ariel Pablo-Mendez, U.S. Agency for International Development reminded the audience that we need to make sure we’re capturing the successes of the last 20 years. Gayle and Jennifer Kates, Kaiser Family Foundation also cautioned that we need to be sure the political discussion doesn’t trump the health issues and that they reflect the American public support for global health. Kates noted from the Foundation’s work that the American public cares about global health because they know it’s the right thing to do.

Research!America’s most recent state-based global health polls also reflect strong support for global health and global health R&D funding. 72% of Marylanders are concerned about global health, 74% of Georgians believe that global health research is important to Georgia’s economy and 70% of Californians feel Americans would be better off if the U.S. invested in global health research. While we know these investments are the right thing for the world, it is also our responsibility to make the complete case for global health and global health R&D by telling the full story – that these investments are also the smart thing for the US. See some examples of how these investments are paying off for states around the nation.

Through its policy and advocacy efforts, Research!America is playing an active role in the goals and objectives laid out by HHS in their new report. For more information, please go to: http://globalhealth.kff.org/Multimedia/2012/January/05/gh010512video.aspx

NIH & DoD Launch Database for Traumatic Brain Injury Research

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Contact sports like football can come with a wide array of injuries, from bumps and bruises to traumatic brain injury — one of the more serious.

As football season approaches, the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense have unveiled Federal Interagency Traumatic Brain Injury Research (FITBIR), a database designed to address challenges in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of TBI.

About 1.7 million people in the U.S. are afflicted with TBI each year as a result of sports-related injuries, car accidents and other causes. Apart from those, service members are at a uniquely higher risk of suffering from a TBI in combat.

Because the causes and locations of TBI vary widely, one of the largest challenges is the difficulty of treating and developing new therapies. Another challenge is in comparing studies on TBI research: Because there are a number of measures used to test TBI, data on the subject lacks uniformity.

Funded at $10 million over four years, FITBIR will address these challenges by collecting uniform data on TBI. It is part of a larger, collaborative effort among more than 50 universities and federal agencies to speed comparative effectiveness research on TBI.

Speaking Out for Medical Research

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Research!America’s Scientific Advisory Committee — a panel of notable leaders in research, public health, basic science and public policy — and Paul G. Rogers Society for Global Health Research — a group that serves the public’s interest by increasing U.S. support for global health research and by engaging America’s leading scientists in effective advocacy — have sent letters to key leaders in Congress and the administration imploring them not to cut funding for the National Institutes of Health.

An excerpt from the Paul G. Rogers Society letter:

We understand that Congress and the Administration face tough choices as you consider deficit reduction strategies and federal funding levels for FY 2012. It would clearly be counterproductive, however, to pursue funding cuts that have the effect of increasing federal spending and reducing federal revenues.

We firmly believe that cuts to funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) would ultimately exacerbate the federal budget gap. We also believe that supporting medical research into diseases affecting Americans and populations abroad is an essential facet of the government’s responsibility for protecting the American public. Such research also holds one of the keys to reducing the need for foreign assistance. Finally, we believe that our nation’s identity is grounded in basic human compassion, and that medical innovation is — at its core — a profound act of compassion. For these reasons, we urge you to invest in, not divest from, the life- and money-saving medical research funded by the NIH.

And the Scientific Advisory Committee letter:

If we do not invest in the research supported by NIH, we stifle the ability of private sector drug and device companies to translate that research into treatments and cures. In other words, we undercut our best hope of reducing the disease burden and improving the independence and productivity of our aging population. The reality is that basic research does not attract private sector capital, so public investment is needed to perpetuate it. We must not ignore this reality and hope that the private sector can absorb the loss of NIH-backed basic research. It simply is not the case.

NIH-backed research means jobs at universities, academic medical centers, and independent research institutions in every state across our nation. And that economic activity is more than matched by the private sector when it builds on the groundwork laid by publicly funded research to develop and commercialize new medical products. As our nation fights its way back to economic vitality, we must not sacrifice the jobs and GDP-enhancing revenue produced by public and private sector medical research.

Our nation cannot lead in the global economy if we allow other nations to outpace us in the R&D arena.

Research!America Statement on the Death of former NIH Director Bernadine Healy

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

WASHINGTON–August 8, 2011–Research!America responded to the news of the death of Bernadine Healy, MD, former director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

According to Research!America’s president and CEO Mary Woolley, “The loss of Bernadine Healy is felt throughout the research community. She spoke with the passion and the voice of an advocate on behalf of health and medical research. She fought to establish the NIH Women’s Health Initiative and to include women in clinical trials. We feel the deep loss of her voice and her wisdom, even as we applaud her legacy.”

Healy was appointed to director of the NIH in 1991. She was the first woman to head the agency. She has also served as deputy director of the White House Office of Science and Policy, dean of the Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health, president of the American Heart Association and president of the American Red Cross.

Research!America’s chair, former Illinois Congressman John Edward Porter, said, “As a physician, educator and health administrator, Bernadine Healy’s manifold contributions to the field of medicine and science policy saved countless lives and inspired the next generation of scientists. As a tribute to her legacy, I encourage the research community to double its advocacy efforts.”

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.

Research!America Salutes the Life and Legacy of Senator Mark O. Hatfield

Monday, August 8th, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC–August 8, 2011–The medical and health research community mourns the loss of Senator Mark O. Hatfield who died Sunday evening in Portland, Oregon.

Senator Hatfield’s distinguished leadership included six years as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “Senator Hatfield demonstrated a passionate belief that health and research for the health of all Americans are national priorities,” said Research!America’s chair, former Illinois Congressman John Edward Porter. “He was a ‘giant’ of the Congress who believed deeply in bipartisanship and working with all Members of the Congress to make good things happen for the country. As chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Hatfield fought for strong growth in appropriation for the National Institutes of Health. During his chairmanship funding for the NIH increased an average of nearly 10 percent a year.”

Senator Hatfield was a recipient of Research!America’s pinnacle award – The Edwin C. Whitehead Award for Medical Research Advocacy. “Senator Hatfield understood that medical and health research not only improves the quality of life, but affords the nation the highest economic return of any federal investment,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. With encouragement from Senator Hatfield, Research!America developed a series of outreach programs with schools of government and public policy formally launched at the Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University in Oregon.

In 2005 the Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center was opened on the campus of the NIH. The 870,000-square-foot Hatfield Building is the largest clinical research hospital in the world.

What the Debt Ceiling Means for Science & Research

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Unless you haven’t surfaced from your lab or office lately, you know by now that the White House and congressional leaders reached a compromise on the debt ceiling bill, which President Obama signed into law.

The deal authorizes the president to increase the debt limit by approximately $2.1 trillion, eliminating the need for any further increases until at least 2013. It also set in motion federal budget cuts of about $1 trillion over 10 years by enacting annual caps on discretionary spending — which funds the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health.

A special bipartisan committee was authorized by the bill to consider options to cut an additional $1.5 trillion. The next step for policy makers is to determine exactly which federal programs will be cut — and by how much — to meet the spending caps.

While it will be months before we find out what the committee recommends, science will undoubtedly be affected on some level. For example, The Scientist reports that reductions could result in cuts to existing grant programs at the NIH and harm the budgets of the CDC and the FDA, which could, in turn, negatively affect health outcomes.

But there is a silver lining: ScienceInsider offers four aspects of the deal that could benefit science:

    1. While the bill means that research agencies likely won’t receive increased funding, it essentially freezes discretionary spending for two years — which is better than rolling it back to 2008 levels as had been proposed.

    2. The ceiling on discretionary spending is $24 billion higher than the level the House of Representatives approved for FY12, which leaves room for research funding advocates to appeal to Congress.

    3. Similarly, the Senate hasn’t yet approved any FY12 appropriations, again giving advocates a chance to make Members of Congress aware that cutting health research spending is not a deficit reduction strategy.

    4. With the White House a party to the negotiations, the debt ceiling bill could serve as a sort of budget resolution that could help speed the approval of certain spending bills — and the appropriations process altogether.

FasterCures Partnering for Cures

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

FasterCures’ 2011 Partnering for Cures meeting will take place November 6-8 at the Grand Hyatt in New York City, convening leaders from all sectors of medical research to help foster partnerships and collaboration within the field.

Speakers at this year’s meeting will include National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD; Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD; University of California, San Francisco Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD; Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research President Mark Fishman, MD, and many more.

Applications are now being accepted for Innovator Presentations from organizations engaged in collaborations focused on reducing the time it takes for medical breakthroughs to reach patients. These collaborations should involved two or more of the following sectors: nonprofit foundations, pharmaceutical and/or biotechnology companies, research institutes, universities, government agencies, investors and private philanthropists.

The application deadline is August 19. For application and evaluation criteria or to apply, click here.

FasterCures and UCSF are Research!America members.

Ruling: Federal Funding for Stem Cell Research Can Continue

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

The lawsuit that sought to strike down federally funded human embryonic stem cell research was dismissed today.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth — the same judge whose ruling, which was quickly overturned, brought hESCR to a halt last August — ruled in favor of the government in the case of Sherley et al v. Sebelius.

The lawsuit was filed by plaintiffs James Sherley, MD, PhD, and Theresa Deisher, PhD, two scientists who claimed that the National Institutes of Health violated the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which bans funding for research that destroys embryos.

Wednesday’s opinion notes that the court has “become a grudging partner in a bout of linguistic jujitsu” over the definition of the word “research” as written in the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, but ultimately rules as follows:

Therefore this Court, following the D.C. Circuit’s reasoning and conclusions, must find that defendants reasonably interpreted the Dickey-Wicker Amendment to permit funding for human embryonic stem cell research because such research is not “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed…”

The Associated Press has the story.

Video Games in the Service of Research

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Sorry for the delay in getting this posted. Two of us in the communications department spent the afternoon playing video games.

And our boss was cool with it. No, really, he was.

Chances are he wouldn’t be so nonchalant were we engrossed in, say, the next installment of Grand Theft Auto or Modern Warfare 3. No, these games serve a higher purpose: furthering research.

We came across them earlier in the week, thanks to a report on ScienceInsider. The blog post wondered when the National Institutes of Health was going to dip its toe into high-risk, high-reward research, with a prize attached to it.

According to the report, the America COMPETES Act allows NIH to do so; the story quotes a senior NIH official as saying that progress has been made, but patience is required. Further down, the story discusses how the non-scientific public can be used to further biomedical research; one example is the website PatientsLikeMe.com, which hosts a treasure trove of data on patients and could be useful for researchers to sift through.

Then came the video games.

Computer games like FoldIt and EteRNA allow non-scientists to participate in the discovery process. And that can be beneficial; one computer scientist notes that people with only a basic scientific background aren’t constrained by what they think the answer should be. Instead, their free-thinking solutions continue to delight scientists.

So, the Research!America team did just that: We unleashed two non-scientists onto the games to get their perspectives:

FoldIt

URL: http://fold.it/portal/

Background: FoldIt has been around for a few years (as the timestamp on this post from BoingBoing notes), and it asks users to fold and modify proteins in different ways. And in doing so, it helps researchers at the University of Washington gain a better understanding of protein folding, as well as finding microscopic improvements that could turn harmful proteins into beneficial ones. One important note: FoldIt is a downloadable application, so if you plan on using it at work, you might need permission to get it onto your hard drive.

Gameplay: As others in the links above have said, the game is strangely addicting. For a non-scientist, it takes time to become used to the concepts of hyrdophobics and clashes. Fortunately, there’s an extensive tutorial to make you aware of all of the tools at hand: design mode, shaking and wiggling (whose music is vaguely reminiscent of CSPAN2’s orchestral music during a Senate quorum call). But in all, it makes you feel powerful, in that you’re contributing to something larger than yourself and that you have complete creative freedom while doing so. There are no right answers, only a score and the challenge to beat others are on the high score board. And be prepared to be frustrated when you come within 10 points of advancing to the next tutorial or just missing out on the big board; with the click of a mouse, you can return to your most productive point, which certainly helps when a single stroke reduces your score from 8,500 to zero.

EteRNA

URL: http://eterna.cmu.edu/content/EteRNA

Background: EteRNA’s slogan is “Played by Humans, Scored by Nature.” Indeed, a weekly winner is chosen and that person’s results are synthesized. Like the folding proteins in FoldIt, the winner’s creation is scored based on how well the RNA folds. The game helps researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University better understand life at the cellular level and was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Ribonucleic acid, or RNA, molecules, by the way, play critical roles in the fundamental processes of life and disease – from protein synthesis and HIV replication to cellular control, according to EteRNA. However, the implications of this knowledge are not fully understood, and scientists still don’t fully grasp all of RNA’s roles.
That’s where EteRNA comes in.

Gameplay: Like FoldIt, EteRNA is rather addicting and required some getting used to for a non-scientist, communications type. Kindly, EteRNA offers tutorial puzzles — the first of three types of puzzles it possesses — for users to familiarize themselves with RNA design. Once you’ve cleared the five tutorials (or before, if you dare), you can move on to challenge puzzles, which allow you to hone your RNA folding skills. But don’t worry — if you get stuck, EteRNA helps you by offering a strategy guide. Once you get really good, EteRNA invites you to create your own puzzles with the goal of identifying problems with existing algorithms and working toward improving them.

The U.S. Vital Role in Advancing Global Health and Scientific Innovation: Meningitis Vaccine Project

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

In the past, we’ve discussed the product development partnerships (PDPs) helping to bring public and private research and development entities together to advance global health. These unique business models — the Meningitis Vaccine Project, for one — have made major breakthroughs, creating and finding solutions that are saving lives around the world. Instrumental to these successes is the role of the United States and several key federal agencies.

The U.S. Agency for International Development, Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health all played vital and collaborative roles with other public and private partners to make a meningitis vaccine a reality for children and youth in Africa. Predicted to save over $300 million and prevent more than a million cases of meningitis over the next decade, the Meningitis Vaccine Project tells the success story of one PDP through cost-effective vaccine research and delivery.

Research!America is examining the U.S. Commitment to Global Health and many innovative collaborations like MVP that are contributing to saved lives and money around the world.

Tell Congress: No More NIH Budget Cuts

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

The recent budget deal for fiscal year 2011 reduced the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget by over $300M. The NIH director has reported that grant funding rates are at an all time low.

On July 26, the House of Representatives is scheduled to make their funding recommendation for NIH. Let them know that NIH is critical to our nation’s health, competitiveness, and economic vitality. Our nation needs robust support for health research now more than ever.

In addition to sending a message to your members of Congress, pass this alert on to others who will speak out in support of health research. Click here to ‘like’ this alert on Facebook and share it with your networks.

Our federal budget will continue to be a critical issue and we need every willing voice to send our message loud and clear to our elected officials in Washington. Act now to support research.

IOM Report: Relieving Pain in America

Friday, July 8th, 2011

A new Institute of Medicine report, “Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research,” finds that chronic pain costs the U.S. up to $635 billion each year in medical treatment and lost productivity — a conservative estimate; it does not include costs for pain in children, military personnel or those residing in nursing homes.

Chronic pain is ongoing pain that has no fixed duration and extends beyond the expected period of healing.

An estimated 116 million American adults — more than the number affected by heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined — are afflicted with chronic pain, most of which is preventable, the report says.

Pain, the report says, is a public health challenge. The committee that wrote the report issued a slew of recommendations for government agencies, academia, patient advocacy groups, health care workers and professional societies to address this challenge on a national scale.

The report calls for a coordinated, national effort to increase awareness about pain and transform the way Americans understand and approach pain management and prevention. It also recommends an integrated approach to the treatment, management and prevention of the levels and experiences of pain that vary from person to person.

Further, it also identifies the need for pain education for health care personnel and calls for advances in research on pain within the National Institutes of health — recommending that an entire institute be designated for this purpose — and other research institutions.

The report was mandated by Congress under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and sponsored by the NIH.

The American Chronic Pain Association — a Research!America member — offers tools for pain management and a guide to pain medication and treatment options.

NIH Announces a Global Mental Health Research Initiative

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

The National Institutes of Health and the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases have rolled out the Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health Initiative to identify and find solutions to the barriers faced by those suffering from mental health illnesses around the world.

The goal of the initiative is to increase attention to the full range of mental, neurological and substance use (MNS) disorders and drive research that will improve the lives of people suffering from these disorders over the next 10 years.

To identify the most pressing mental health research needs, an international panel of 422 experts was assembled. The panel employed a consensus-building technique called the Delphi method to select the top 40 research challenges. The top 25 challenges are listed in a report published in Nature, of which the top five are:

  • Integrate screening and mental health services into routine primary health care
  • Reduce the financial burden and improve access to effective medications
  • Improve children’s access to evidence-based care in low- and middle-income countries
  • Provide effective and affordable community-based care
  • Strengthen mental health training for all health care workers
  • The report finds that depression, schizophrenia, epilepsy, dementia and alcohol dependence collectively make up 13% of the global burden of disease and together are responsible for more years of life lost than either cancer or cardiovascular disease.

    However, there are far less treatment options or cures for MNS disorders and, according to the report, the lack of treatment options for MNS disorders costs a lot of money: In 2009, dementia alone cost the world up to $609 billion.

    Addressing the grand challenges in global mental health could reduce the burden of treatment costs and produce substantial quality-of-life benefits.

    The initiative comes at a fitting time: July is National Minority Mental Health Month.

    Institutions, Government Tightly Regulate Animal Research

    Monday, June 27th, 2011

    Animal research exists to advance the health of humans and animals alike. The University of Washington is one such institution that conducts animal research and, according to a recent article, is the target of a new anti-animal research billboard campaign.

    The National Institutes of Health, federally-funded researchers and research institutions work together in accordance with law, regulation and policy to protect animals used in federally-funded research. Specific to the NIH, its Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare regulates all NIH-funded animal research activities.

    In addition to enforcing regulations on animal research, the NIH also provides resources to animal researchers. NIH’s National Center for Research Resources provides researchers with the “resources and tools they need to understand, detect, treat and prevent a wide range of diseases” using animals.

    Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees must also be established at any institution using animal research.

    According to its website, the Animal Use Training Program at the University of Washington is “dedicated to advancing knowledge and improving the health and well being of humans and animals through the humane and ethical use of animals in biomedical research.”

    A recent poll commissioned by Research!America shows that 68% of Americans believe the use of animals in medical research is necessary for progress in human health. And strong positive support for animal research holds up over time: since 1992, the number of respondents who believe animal research is necessary has remained around 70%.

    The University of Washington School of Medicine is a Research!America member.

    Today is National HIV Vaccine Awareness Day!

    Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

    Today is HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, which serves to recognize the thousands of scientists, health professionals and volunteers — 35,000 of whom have volunteered for HIV vaccine clinical trials — who have been working together for over 25 years to develop a safe and effective HIV vaccine. It is also an opportunity for everyone to learn more about the importance of preventive HIV vaccine research.

    The human immunodeficiency virus — HIV for short — severely compromises the body’s immune system and it is the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS, which has become an epidemic.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since 1981, when the first cases of HIV were reported in our country, more than 980,000 cases of AIDS have been reported in the United States. The CDC estimates that more than 1,000,000 Americans could be infected with HIV at present. The virus is a leading killer of African American men ages 25 to 44.

    Strides are being made toward the discovery of a safe and effective HIV vaccine. In a White House blog post, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Margaret (Peggy) Johnston, PhD, a senior scientific consultant for NIAID, detailed some of the progress that has been made on the HIV prevention front:

    Fortunately, through the combined support of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), other US Government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and others, progress in developing new technologies that prevent HIV infection has been notable. Adult male circumcision resulted in greater than 50% protection against HIV acquisition among heterosexual men in several African countries. A once a day pill was shown to reduce new infections in men who have sex with men by 44%, and protection appeared even higher in those men who adhered to the daily drug regimen. Promising results have also been achieved with a vaginally applied microbicide, which protected 39% of women in a trial in South Africa. Again, protection was higher in those who adhered to the drug use schedule. Another exciting finding is that a vaccine provided 31% protection in a heterosexual population in Thailand. Interestingly, efficacy appeared to be 60% in the earlier stages of the trial before the vaccine induced immune responses waned.

    In a press statement, Fauci also detailed some NIAID-specific laboratory and clinical trial work being conducted in search of an effective HIV vaccine.

    Fauci stresses the necessity of clinical trial participation in the quest for an HIV vaccine. In a Research!America poll, 76% of Americans said they would be likely to volunteer for clinical research. To develop an HIV vaccine, that willingness must be turned into action.

    While scientists and researchers are working to find an HIV vaccine, others aim to educate the public about its importance. Through their “Be the Generation” campaign, the NIAID is working to encourage people to be the generation to find a vaccine to prevent HIV by stressing the importance of an HIV vaccine to ending the AIDS epidemic.

    Want more information about the HIV vaccine? NIAID offers fact sheets, brochures, Q&As and online resources. In addition, the HIV Vaccine Trials Network debunks common myths about HIV/AIDS.

    Federal Appeals Court Rules in Favor of ESCR at NIH

    Monday, May 2nd, 2011

    A federal appeals court voted to overturn a preliminary injunction that temporarily halted funding for embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) last December.

    The case came about when plaintiffs James Sherley and Theresa Deisher filed a claim that the National Institutes of Health violated the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which bans funding for research that destroys embryos.

    The recent 2-1 decision in Sherley et al v. Sebelius strongly favors NIH. Two of the three judges who heard arguments in the case, Justices Douglas Ginsburg and Thomas Griffith, conclude:

    The plaintiffs are unlikely to prevail because Dickey-Wicker is ambiguous and the NIH seems reasonably to have concluded that, although Dickey-Wicker bars funding for the destructive act of deriving an ESC from an embryo, it does not prohibit funding a research project in which an ESC will be used.

    The third judge, Justice Karen LeCraft Henderson, offered a dissenting opinion, stating that Ginsburg and Griffith perform “linguistic jujitsu” in their opinion for the court.

    Because the decision was not unanimous, the plaintiffs now have the opportunity to file for an en banc hearing by the entire D.C. circuit. They can also choose to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. In addition, a “summary judgment” by the judge who issued the preliminary injuction, Judge Royce Lamberth, still lies in wait.

    It is unclear how long the various hearings and rulings could take to play out. However long they take, it is clear that this case is not yet closed; however, one law expert told ScienceInsider that the plaintiffs’ options are limited and things seem to weigh heavily in favor of NIH.

    Research Advocacy in the News

    Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

    With federal funding much in the news as Congress debates spending priorities and deficit reduction, Research!America and our members and partners have also been in the news, speaking out about the economic impact of research and its importance to our nation’s health and competitiveness.

    Research!America initiated the concept and worked with Richard Bridges, PhD, College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences, University of Montana, on an op-ed published today in the Helena Independent Record, yesterday in The Billings Gazette and last Thursday in the Missoulian, both located in the district of Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-At-Large-Montana), chair of the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees HHS agencies. The full op-ed (“Invest in Montana research, continue to reap long-term benefits”) is available online at the links above. Among the points made in the op-ed:

    While many Montanans benefit from and appreciate research discoveries, they may not be aware that these discoveries are made right in their own state. As the number and competitiveness of scientists in our universities, hospitals and research institutes have grown dramatically in the past several years, so too has our success in attracting NIH grants. Considering that about 60 to 70 percent of this funding typically supports salaries, it translates directly into jobs: skilled technical jobs, sustainable jobs and well-paying jobs. Indeed, a study by the Families USA Foundation revealed that in 2008, the $38 million awarded to Montana by NIH led to the creation of about 700 jobs. Further analysis by Research!America revealed these health research jobs in Montana had an average annual salary around $55,000. Excitingly, this successful trend is continuing, as 2010 saw further increases in both NIH and NSF awards made to Montana.

    * * *
    Our current times require that not just scientists speak up, but that all of us who see the long-term value of science voice a call to continue making our national investment in research a priority. Research is the key to Montana’s future.

    Research!America’s chair, former Congressman John Edward Porter (R-IL), was cited in The Nation and by Bloomberg News for his leadership in doubling the National Institutes of Health budget in 1998, working with then-Speaker Newt Gingrich in the face of strong budget-cutting pressures. Porter also was interviewed by Nature Medicine’s Spoonful of Medicine blog in a Q&A, “How to protect research funding from the chopping block,” that was picked up by Stanford Medicine’s Scope blog.

    Research!America’s President and CEO Mary Woolley was quoted in The Washington Post’s Federal Eye blog on proposed cuts to the National Science Foundation budget and in The Washington Times on the impact of research cuts to U.S. competitiveness. She authored a guest post on PhRMA’s Catalyst blog, noting steps advocates can take now to protect federal funding for medical and health research. For more ways to take action to protect research funding, visit www.researchamerica.org/advocacy or sign-up here for our advocacy alerts.

    Research!America’s new Your Congress-Your Health poll data was cited in Nature Medicine’s Spoonful of Medicine blog and by wire services United Press International and Asian News International. See the full poll findings and urge your Member of Congress to respond to the Your Congress-Your Health questionnaire at www.yourcongressyourhealth.org.

    Research!America VIP Tour of NIH

    Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

    Research!America staffers had the opportunity to take a guided tour of the National Institutes of Health and witness firsthand the cutting-edge research being conducted there.

    The morning began with a tour of the NIH Clinical Center, a sprawling football field-sized building at which some 1,500 clinical studies are currently being conducted. Devoted entirely to clinical research, the center sees 10,000 new patients a year who are either referred by a physician or self-referred. The Clinical Center had a warm, inviting atmosphere — nothing like the sterile environment of many hospitals. The art that adorned the walls could even be purchased!

    While at the Clinical Center, Research!America staff had the pleasure of meeting with John Burklow, director of the NIH Office of Communications and Public Liaison. Burklow described NIH as a “big place with lots of smart people.” He explained that, surprisingly, only about 15% of NIH research is intramural; that is, it is conducted on the NIH campus. The other 85% is conducted off campus at universities and other research institutions. All NIH research — intramural and extramural — is rooted in its mission.

    A part of that mission is to foster innovative research and creative discoveries. In order to fulfill this portion of its mission, the NIH funds said research and discoveries through its extensive grant program. “Disease knows no borders,” Burklow said, so while the majority of NIH research grants are awarded in the U.S., the institutes and centers also fund research globally. For example, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease alone funds research in 90 countries.

    Another component of NIH’s mission is science education and training. This Research!America staffer recently had the pleasure of witnessing this training component of NIH’s mission trickle down to a suburban Ohio high school: the school recently celebrated “DNA Day” to commemorate the discovery of the genome. The program for the event included the following quote by NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD: “We’ll get closer to perfect kids from caring families and good education than we’ll ever get from genetics.”

    In an effort to peak high school students’ interest science careers, professionals in careers like genetic counseling and DNA analysis spoke about their exciting careers. The event concluded with endearing words from an 11-year-old boy who suffers from cystic fibrosis. The young boy made it clear that medical discoveries have prolonged his life.

    Yet another program unique to NIH that Burklow shared during the tour is the Undiagnosed Disease Program. Similar to the popular Fox TV show House, Burklow said, the program aims to provide answers to patients with mysterious conditions or rare diseases.

    After speaking with Burklow, we had the pleasure of meeting Marcus Chen, MD, of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s Translational Medicine Branch. Chen, a cardiologist, gave a tour of the NHLBI’s Laboratory of Cardiac Energetics, where we were able to see the machines used for computerized tomography scans, better known as CT scans, and magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, machines. He also described some of the cutting-edge research that is being conducted in his lab.

    Our tour guide, Tara Mowery, team leader, NIH Liaison and VIP tours, stressed the point that NIH patients are their partners in research. Research!America poll data shows that only 14% of Americans have participated in clinical trials, but 76% indicate that they would be very or somewhat likely to participate. That willingness must be turned into action. As we encountered patients walking the grounds and halls of NIH, it was made abundantly clear that without clinical trial participants, important medical and scientific discoveries may never have been made there.

    Research!America Urges Congress: Support Medical Research in 2012 Budget

    Monday, April 18th, 2011

    WASHINGTON—April 18, 2011—Research!America urged Congress to prioritize medical, health and scientific research as it begins the process of determining the FY2012 federal budget.

    Former Congressman John Edward Porter (R-IL), Research!America’s chair, said, “Science, research and innovation are the future for our economy, for job growth and for healthier, more productive lives. Our national deficit poses a serious challenge, and we must meet that challenge and solve our deficit and debt problem. But in so doing, we must prioritize what is vital to us and what is not and build on our areas of worldwide leadership. In medical research, we have always been and are today the global leader. We cannot allow that to be lost. We must protect funding for the federal agencies that drive our competitiveness in the world and our leadership in science and innovation.”

    Research!America called for protection of funding for our nation’s leading health research agencies:

    • National Institutes of Health, which funds research at academic institutions and medical centers nationwide, creating jobs, boosting local economies and laying the groundwork for product development by the private sector;
    • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whose research helps protect Americans against pandemics and bioterrorism and works to prevent costly disease and disability;
    • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which supports research that improves the efficiency and quality of health care and thus helps control costs;
    • National Science Foundation, which funds basic discoveries that private industry can develop into new products and technologies, creating jobs and ensuring U.S. competitiveness; and
    • Food and Drug Administration, whose regulatory science ensures the safety and efficacy of new medicines and medical devices, speeding the benefits of research to patients.

    Mary Woolley, Research!America’s president and CEO, said, “Research and development are economic imperatives, not partisan issues. I hope Congress and the White House will agree on a bipartisan basis that we must invest in health research as a means of saving lives, saving dollars—through smarter, better health care—and maintaining our leadership in an innovation-driven global economy.”

    Woolley added, “The public understands this well. In a Research!America poll last month, 78% of Americans said federal funding for health research is important for job creation and the economy, and 61% say accelerating our nation’s investment in research to improve health is a priority. I urge Congress to tell Americans where they stand at www.yourcongressyourhealth.org. I also encourage the public to contact their elected officials’ district offices during this week’s congressional recess to ask them to fill out the questionnaire.”

    Last week, Research!America submitted written testimony, available here, to the House Subcommittee that oversees appropriations for the Department of Health and Human Services.

    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.

    FY11 Budget Compromise: Science Agencies’ Funding

    Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

    As we’re all now well aware, the battle over the FY11 budget recently — and finally — came to a head. In almost the final hour, as the nation counted down to what seemed to be a certain shutdown, Democrats and Republicans reached a compromise, thereby narrowly avoiding a shutdown.

    The compromise resulted in the largest annual spending cut in our history: Overall, the agreed-upon continuing resolution cuts $78.5 billion from President Barack Obama’s FY11 budget request.

    Most notably, a $500 million cut in biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health was avoided. NIH, as many other agencies, will face cuts (ScienceInsider has more details) but the cuts are less than a previous version of the budget.

    According to the most recent numbers available, compared to the FY2010 enacted levels, the budget deal cuts $260 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health; $53 million from the National Science Foundation; $69 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and $25 million from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Official numbers on cuts to the Food and Drug Administration were not immediately available.

    The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the compromise legislation tomorrow.