Add Your Voice to the Rally for Medical Research

Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.)

Across the United States, hundreds of thousands of researchers are working to better understand a wide range of diseases and conditions, from cancer to heart disease, to rare disorders to Alzheimer disease, and countless others, in order to improve the health and well-being of people in every corner of America and the world. The lifeblood for the majority of these researchers is federal funding received through the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Through more than 57,000 research and training grants, NIH directly supports approximately 300,000 researchers at more than 2,500 universities and organizations located in all 50 states. This funding, in turn, supports local economies and spurs economic growth. In 2015 alone, NIH funding directly and indirectly supported more than 350,000 jobs and produced over $60 billion in new economic activity. You can learn more about NIH from this short video.

Unfortunately, for much of this century, the NIH budget has not kept pace with medical inflation. In 2015, after adjusting for inflation, NIH's budget had decreased by 24% compared to what it was in 2004. As a result, during this period, hundreds of scientists and research projects that would ordinarily have received adequate funding were not funded or were underfunded, increasing the time from research to cure.

That is why we need people like you! Every September, a broad coalition of more than 300 institutions and organizations representing the medical research advocacy community, including the American Association for Cancer Research and Research!America, partner together to participate in the Rally for Medical Research Hill Day in Washington, DC. 

These groups bring hundreds of people like you to Capitol Hill, including scientists, clinicians, patients and survivor advocates, students, parents, children, to urge members of Congress to make funding for NIH a national priority. Last year, advocates from 40 states converged on Washington, D.C., and met with more than 200 members of the House and Senate and their staff. You can watch a video from last year’s Rally Hill Day here and check out what advocates experienced during the event.

When passionate advocates come together for a great cause, Congress listens. Last year, Congress passed a spending package that included the first significant increase ($2 billion) for the NIH in more than a decade.

Moving forward, the House Energy & Commerce and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committees is continuing to work on a 21st Century Cures bill, which would provide a new, mandatory funding stream for the NIH focused on specific initiatives. In addition, in June 2016, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would provide the NIH with another $2 billion increase in 2017, a 6.2%increase, while in July, the House Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would provide $1.25 billion (3.9%) increase for NIH in 2017.

These bills still have a few steps before becoming law, but the budget increase that passed both Appropriations Committees and the bipartisan support for the 21st Century Cures bill are a testament to the dedication and commitment from advocates to convince their Senators and Representatives of the importance of supporting NIH funding, and supporting it year over year.

Despite this important progress, there is still a lot of work to be done because many patients and their loved ones are still waiting for cures. According to the industry group PhRMA, it takes at least 10 years for a new treatment to make its way from research labs to patients. In that time, millions of Americans are diagnosed with or die from chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

While NIH-funded research has been helping to steadily reduce the burden of disease, additional investments in NIH are still necessary to further lower and eliminate that burden. It is incumbent on all of us to raise our voices and push Congress to support more funding for NIH, so that researchers and physicians can successfully get cures from labs to patients as soon as possible! We invite you join advocates across the country who will let their voices be heard in support of NIH and cures. Visit our Take Action Page on September 22 to send your Senators and Representative a letter in support of a $2 billion increase to the NIH budget. Between now and 12:00 PM on September 22, you can also join this Social Media Thunderclap to add your voice and help increase the visibility of #RallyMedRes. 

Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), is the CEO of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

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You can change the image of things to come. But you can’t do it sitting on your hands … The science community should reach out to Congress and build bridges.
The Honorable John E. Porter