Posts Tagged ‘Tom Harkin’

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

Collins, NIH Colleagues Testify Before Senate Subcommittee

Friday, May 13th, 2011

National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, along with several of his colleagues, testified at the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies about the NIH’s FY12 budget.

Collins, in his opening remarks, sought to allay concerns about the NIH’s upcoming National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).

“This is not Bethesda Pharma,” Collins said, referring to NIH’s home base of Bethesda, MD. He assured policy makers that NCATS will complement, not compete with, the private sector – an assertion Collins has made for several months.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) voiced concern about the direction of NCATS and worried that Congress had yet to see a detailed plan of the new center. Collins assured Shelby that he had intended to have those plans available by the time of the hearing; but Collins said they would be delivered within the coming weeks.

Shelby has been a noted supporter of research, and the senators that asked questions were also generally supportive. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), the subcommittee chairman, noted in his opening remarks that fewer than 20% of applications to the NIH would be funded because of budget cuts. Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) also voiced support for NIH.

Collins appeared at the hearing with Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Griffin Rodgers, MD, director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; Susan Shurin, MD, acting director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; and Harold Varmus, MD, director of the National Cancer Institute.

“Profiles of Promise”

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

“Profiles of Promise” is a new website from United for Medical Research that relays stories from Members of Congress who are strong proponents of scientific research.

The profiles reach across the aisle with both major parties represented, and they reach across chambers with four senators and five representatives.

Each has a personal experience to share. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) went through a health scare when his wife, Annette Shelby, PhD, was diagnosed with lupus. Fearing she was near death, Richard Shelby contacted doctors at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Those doctors helped reverse Annette Shelby’s kidney failure; today, she’s still going strong — 23 years later.

“I think [research] puts us at the cutting edge of biomedical technology and spawns so many jobs, industries and companies that we can’t even list them,” Richard Shelby told the website. “And I think we’re just scratching the surface. We’ve learned so much in the last 10 years, even 5 years, even 2 years. Where are we going to be in 10 years, or 15 years? And a lot will be because of biomedical research.”

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) writes the foreword to the series. Other members featured include Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA), Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA).

Research!America is a partner of United for Medical Research. The University of Alabama-Birmingham (as well as several of UAB’s schools) is a member of Research!America.

Senate Subcommittee Hearing Describes the Science Behind Stem Cell Research

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) chaired a hearing for the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Subcommittee to discuss the promise of human embryonic stem cell research, bringing together Senators from both parties and top scientists performing stem cell research. Although the recent injunction on funding for embryonic stem cell research was mentioned, Harkin made it clear that this hearing was not meant to relitigate the court case but to describe the science.

Francis Collins, MD, PhD, director of the National Institutes of Health, laid the groundwork for why human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research is so important. He explained that there are three types of stem cells that are being studied today: embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells. The important characteristic of embryonic stem cells is that they are pluripotent; they can become almost any cell type in the body, which makes them incredibly powerful tools for research and therapy. Adult stem cells are stem cells that have already differentiated to become a certain cell type, so they are no longer pluripotent. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) are adult stem cells that have been genetically manipulated to be pluripotent; however, these cells do not behave the same as hESC.

Many opponents to federal funding of hESC research say that adult stem cells or iPSC can be used in place of hESC, so there is no need to study hESC. Collins and other panelists refute this claim. Along with Collins, George Daley, Director of Stem Cell Transplantation and Associate Director of the Stem Cell Program at Children’s Hospital Boston, and Dr. Sean Morrison, Director of the Center for Stem Cell Biology at the University of Michigan Life Science Institute advocate for funding to study all three types of stem cells. It is clear from the scientists’ perspectives that hESC, adult stem cells and iPSC may all be useful for specific applications; neither is overall better than another. Importantly, we do not yet know which cell type will work best for specific applications, so we must continue research using all three.

Loss of funding for hESC will have devastating consequences, according to Dr. Collins. The injunction has already cast a cloud of uncertainty over the field. Several of the panelists voiced concern that young, promising scientists will not pursue research using hESC; they may move to other fields of research or they may choose to take their work overseas. The US’s place at the top of the scientific research field may come into question.

More importantly, patients are losing hope. Cody Unsar, Founder of the Cody Unsar First Step Foundation, said that hESC research gave her hope for a cure for paralysis, but all of that is thrown into doubt. Patients have the most to lose in this debate.

As Harkin mentioned in his opening remarks, we all know someone who is or who will be affected by a disease that could be treated with knowledge gained from hESC research. This is a largely untapped field of inquiry, and we cannot throw away all of that prospective knowledge.

- Kate Greenberg, PhD

(Note: Kate’s take on her first congressional hearing can be found on our New Voices blog.)

UMR Statement Commends Senate Appropriations Committee

Friday, July 30th, 2010

United for Medical Research, a coalition of leading research institutions that includes Research!America, released a statement today commending the Senate Appropriations Committee, its chairman, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and subcommittee chairman Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) for their roles in approving a $32 billion budget for the National Institutes of Health for FY 2011.

The full statement is below:

Senate Committee Vote to Increase Biomedical Research Funding Provides Boost to Health Care and the Economy

Statement of Gregory T. Lucier, United for Medical Research spokesperson and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Life Technologies

WASHINGTON – “On behalf of United for Medical Research (UMR), a coalition of leading research institutions, patient and health advocates and private industry, I commend Senate Labor-HHS Subcommittee Chairman Harkin and members of the Subcommittee as well as Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Inouye and the Appropriations Committee for their approval of $32 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) FY2011 budget.

“Investment in NIH research has improved countless lives and led to life-saving drugs, like Gleevec for chronic myeloid leukemia, t-PA to reduce disability from stroke and other therapies emerging from the human genome project.

“Furthermore, NIH funding is not only a vital tool in our pursuit to reduce the burden of disease and its associated health care costs, but it also yields significant dividends for our nation, from job creation and life sciences industry growth to better quality of life for millions of patients and families.

“I commend Chairman Harkin and Chairman Inouye’s leadership and the appropriations committees’ action and urge Congress to continue moving forward and secure a significant funding increase for the NIH. Congress’ level of commitment to NIH research funding will determine how many – and how quickly – transformative ideas are brought to life for patients.”

United for Medical Research is a coalition of leading research institutions, patient and health advocates and private industry, joined together to seek steady increases in federal funding for the National Institutes of Health. For more information, visit The coalition groups consist of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, Association of American Universities, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, Biotechnology Industry Organization, Emory University, Genentech, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Life Technologies, National Health Council, PhRMA, Research!America, Stanford University, The Endocrine Society, University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California and Washington University in St. Louis.

For more information on UMR, visit their website at

Sebelius’ Testimony Before Senate LHHS Appropriations Committee

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius testified about the FY 2011 HHS budget request before the Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday March 10.

In her testimony, Secretary Sebelius noted that a “critical way to grow and transform our economy is through a healthy investment in research that will not only save lives but also create jobs.”

In addition to the budget’s proposed investment in the National Institutes of Health, Secretary Sebelius described the department’s prevention and public health preparedness activities, including HHS’s response to H1N1.

In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chair Tom Harkin lauded the president’s use of a “scalpel” to hold the line on overall non-security spending, while providing “significant increases” for many HHS agencies, including NIH.

A webcast of the hearing is available online.

AADR to Present Honorary Membership to Sen. Tom Harkin

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

The American Association for Dental Research (AADR) will present an honorary membership to Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA). Harkin will be recognized at the AADR/Research!America Advocacy Day on March 2, 2010, in Washington, DC.

From the AADR press release:

Harkin is being recognized for his commitment to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). He remains one of the Senate’s most staunch champions of biomedical research. Along with his colleague Senator Arlen Specter (also an AADR honorary member), Harkin led the effort to double the NIH budget from 1999-2003. Additionally, his leadership during the crafting of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act helped secure a much-needed $10.4 billion for NIH, which was quickly utilized by the scientific community all across the country.

RSVP for the AADR/Research!America Advocacy Day at The International & American Association for Dental Research is a Research!America member.

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

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honoring Senators Harkin, Kennedy and Specter

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

On August 4, Research!America, The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health honored Senators Tom Harkin (IA), Edward M. Kennedy (MA) and Arlen Specter (PA).

Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD; Sen. Harkin and Elias A. Zerhouni, MD, are pictured on the cover of today’s Roll Call. Sen. Specter and The Honorable John Edward Porter, Research!America’s board chair, are pictured accompanying an article on the Pennsylvania senate race in today’s Washington Times.

Sen. Tom Harkin

Sen. Arlen Specter

More photos and a summary coming soon.