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