A weekly advocacy message from Mary Woolley: If not now, when?

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,

The President’s signature on hard fought funding and tax legislation was enough to end the year on a high note, but there’s more good news: 

In an interview on C-SPAN, Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said what many of us have been waiting to hear: “Number one, what we want to turn our attention to [in 2016] is what we call the Innovation Bill.” After the 21st Century Cures pay-fors were used to help offset lost revenues in the FY16 Omnibus/Tax package, the prospects for mandatory NIH and FDA funding seemed weak. However, not only did Chairman Alexander reiterate his support for mandatory funding, but House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI-06) pledged to continue fighting for it: “We’ll have to find pay-fors, and the good news is that we can…” Thank you, Chairman Alexander and Chairman Upton, for your unwavering resolve!

Hillary Clinton announced that if elected, she would launch a major offensive against Alzheimer’s, in part by providing $2 billion annually for NIH-funded Alzheimer’s research.  Her campaign indicated that this is the first in a series of proposals aimed at bolstering NIH and in other ways equipping our nation to defeat deadly and disabling diseases. You can read our statement here. Other candidates have expressed their views on Alzheimer’s. Newt Gingrich also weighed in on the importance of research this week with an opinion piece in which he calls on every member of Congress to support doubling the NIH budget.

You may recall that Jeb Bush released a health reform plan that includes a funding boost for NIH and changes in the FDA regulatory process. Mike Huckabee and John Kasich have also asserted the importance of advancing research  I cannot emphasize it enough: now is the time to secure an enduring change in the way our nation responds to disease and disability. Our advocacy community is better positioned than we have ever been to establish faster medical progress as a top national priority, an imperative as immutable as maintaining a strong economy and a stalwart national defense.

But this shift in perspective will not achieve itself. We all have a number of jobs to do, including:

1) encouraging more (and by “more” I mean “all”!) candidates to address the need for faster medical progress. I wrote a blog for the Huffington Post on this topic last week.

2) ensuring that current and prospective policymakers understand what it will take for our nation to make faster gains in a way that truly benefits every American. For example, progress is not just about NIH; medical advances arise out of a public/private sector continuum, and the right policies and incentives must be in place across that continuum to spur continuous innovation. And it’s not just about biomedical research.  It’s also about harnessing prevention, health research and other social sciences research disciplines, bridging the false divide between domestic and global health, and sustaining a strong and nimble public health system. And, in addition to conquering the most prevalent and costly illnesses, Americans will measure success by the progress we make against rare diseases, suicide, and other less common, but equally vicious, health threats. 

With your help, we can deploy Research!America’s voter education initiative, Campaign for Cures, not only to ensure faster medical progress is part of the election year conversation, but to raise awareness about the inputs that make progress possible and the outputs that make it meaningful. Please join this effort. Contact Thayer Surette at Tsurette@researchamerica.org for more information.

I wish you and yours the happiest of Holidays.

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The capabilities are enormous, a little bit of research can pay off quite a bit in the long run.
Paul D’ Addario, retinitis pigmentosa patient