Panel Examines the Future for Research at Post-Election Event
Nine days after the 2012 general election, Research!America and its partners-the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network-hosted a post-election briefing to discuss the future of research and innovation in the 113th Congress and in President Barack Obama's second term.
The event, held at the AAAS building in downtown Washington, DC, featured a panel discussion with National Journal Daily editor Matthew Cooper; Research!America Board member The Honorable Kweisi Mfume; and Research!America's chair, The Honorable John Edward Porter. Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley served as moderator.
As with so much else in Washington, little is discernible without a clear picture on what will happen with the "fiscal cliff," the series of tax increases and spending cuts that are currently scheduled to take effect in January. During the post-election briefing, all three panelists acknowledged that controlling the debt and deficit is the immediate, overriding concern for Congress.
But there were a few predictions: Mfume said he expected the R&D tax credit to pass in the coming Congress. And Cooper said he believed that research and technology holds strong support within the administration, calling it an "itch they want to scratch."
Prior to the panel discussion, Woolley reviewed some of the results of Research!America's Your Candidates- Your Health initiative. She highlighted quotes and responses by Obama and several returning Members of Congress, including Sen.-elect Tammy Baldwin (D-WI); Rep. Dan Benishek, MD (R-MI); Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD); Rep.-elect Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA); Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA); and Rep. Don Young (R-AK).
Woolley also highlighted areas of agreement and disagreement between the Republicans and Democrats. Among the areas of agreement were that research is part of the solution to rising health care costs; that maintaining U.S. competitiveness and supporting the National Institutes of Health should be higher priorities; that the government should work to increase the number of students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and that the R&D tax credit should become permanent.
Areas of disagreement included whether the Food and Drug Administration is adequately funded; whether the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality should be higher priorities; and if federal funding should be expanded for embryonic stem cell research.
Congress has until the end of the year to address the "fiscal cliff," a conflagration of tax and budget landmines including sequestration, expiration of Bush-era and other tax cuts, and addressing an unjustifiable cut in Medicare physician payments. Sequestration, scheduled to take effect in January 2013, would slice billions out of the federal research budget, including from health and science agencies.
At the time of this writing, congressional leaders and President Barack Obama have met to discuss plans to avert the fiscal cliff, and the president and congressional leadership have both put forth a blueprint intended to jumpstart negotiations.
The appropriators, meanwhile, are reportedly preparing omnibus spending legislation. It is unclear how new funds for hurricane relief would be paid for, but there is talk of a funding mechanism that would avoid further cuts to discretionary spending. Yet, at the time of this writing, the prospects for an omnibus are as uncertain as the prospects for a "grand bargain" that addresses the fiscal cliff and sets the stage for significant deficit reduction. The most likely outcome remains a short-term fix that would avert the cliff and provide lawmakers time to develop a comprehensive plan for deficit reduction in 2013. Under that scenario, the omnibus would fall away and disaster relief would be encompassed in the short-term fix.
The bottom line is that funding for research remains at risk. Research!America and our partners in the community are fighting to make sure lawmakers understand just what is at stake, but we need every research advocate to stand up and make the case to their representatives before it's too late.
CPH Foundation Update
The winners of the 2012 Unsung Heroes of Public Health Awards were lauded at a ceremony on Capitol Hill in early December. Among those saluting the winners were one of the honorary co-chairs of the event (Rep. Jim McGovern [DMA]); leadership from The CPH Foundation (Board Chair Evan Jones, Board member Carmine Novembre and Executive Director Karl Moeller); and a representative from the office of Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY).
Amalia R. Miller, PhD, associate professor at the University of Virginia and an economist with RAND Corporation, and Catherine E. Tucker, PhD, associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, received the 2012 Garfield Economic Impact Award at a ceremony in Washington, DC, on November 15.
Their study, "Can Health Care Information Technology Save Babies?", was published in Journal of Political Economy and found that the use of electronic medical records (EMRs) reduces neonatal mortality as compared with traditional hard-copy records. Moreover, the study found that the cost of EMRs for this purpose is minimal when compared with the societal benefits.
Research!America Board member Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, presented the award.
The award is supported by a grant from Merck & Co., Inc. Founding support for the Garfield Award was provided by the Eugene Garfield Foundation.
Former Rep. Joe Early (D-MA), who served in Congress from 1975 to 1993 and was a strong advocate for the National Institutes of Health, died November 9. He was 79.
"We are deeply saddened by the passing of Joseph Early and extend our condolences to his family and colleagues deeply affected by his loss," said Research!America Chair John Edward Porter, who served on the House Appropriations Committee with Early. "Early was an exceptional and dedicated public servant, helping make research a priority not only for his community, but for the nation."
As a state legislator, he secured funding for the University of Massachusetts Medical School and pushed for it to be located in his hometown of Worcester, according to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. His support for medical research continued in Congress, where he was a fierce proponent for the NIH.
"From championing economic development to his tireless advocacy for medical research, Joe Early was a man who truly made a difference," Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), who now holds Early's seat, said in a statement.
The Lasker Foundation has announced that nominations for the 2013 Lasker Awards are being accepted through February 1, 2013. There are three categories of awards being given out in 2013: Basic Medical Research, Clinical Medical Research and Public Service.
Nominations will be accepted in both hard copy and electronically. To learn more, download a nomination packet or submit an online nomination, visit www.laskerfoundation.org/nominate.htm.
The Food and Drug Administration announced that it is taking part in a new public-private partnership designed to promote medical device regulatory science with the goal of ultimately speeding the development and review of new medical devices.
The partnership is known as the Medical Device Innovation Consortium and is an independent, nonprofit corporation that was created by LifeScience Alley, a trade organization.
MDIC will fund projects and seek input from industry, government, nonprofits and other stakeholders to help simplify the process of designing and approving medical device innovations.
The Clinical Research Forum, a Research!America member, has announced its call for nominations for the 2013 Top 10 Clinical Research Achievement Awards. The deadline for submitting a nomination is January 1, 2013.
To be eligible, research must have been conducted at a U.S. institution during 2012. The researchers must also agree to attend the Clinical Research Forum's Annual Meeting, which is April 18-19, 2013, in Washington, DC, and allow their research to be included in a publication targeted to Congress.
To learn more about the awards, the selection criteria and nomination requirements, visit http://bit.ly/V9oz7K.
Despite their name, neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) have appeared across the U.S. And Research!America's latest fact sheet (see this month's insert) shows just how prevalent they are: NTDs have been documented across the southern tier of the country, from California east to South Carolina and north to Virginia. Fortunately, research to combat NTDs is taking place across nearly as large a swath of the country.
The fact sheet shows the prevalence of NTDs, as well as some good news: Progress is being made. The fact sheet explains current successes and details how government, academia and public-private partnerships all work to ease the burden of NTDs.
Congress is considering major changes in federal policy in order to reduce the deficit, including "sequestration," which means arbitrary, across-the-board budget cuts to defense and non-defense spending. Sequestration or similar sweeping cuts to "discretionary" federal funding would dramatically reduce funding for medical research and critical public health functions.
We can't let that happen. Deficit reduction is important, but there are ways to achieve it that do not compromise American lives and American progress. Arbitrary budget cuts that abandon medical research are wrong. Join dozens of organizations and tell Congress: WE NEED CURES, NOT CUTS!
Baxter International traces its roots to 1931, when it became the first manufacturer of commercially prepared intravenous solutions. Only four years later, Baxter began research and development activities. More than 80 years later, Baxter is noted for its breakthroughs in kidney dialysis, hemophilia, vaccines and a host of other areas. In 2011, its worldwide sales neared $14 billion, and it boasted an R&D budget of $946 million.
The academic focus of Norbert Riedel, PhD, was biochemistry. But as Baxter's corporate vice president and chief science and innovation officer, the demands of his job spread far beyond that one subject. The company's portfolio is vast, incorporating pharmaceuticals, medical devices and biotechnology. Such diversity is a defining characteristic, Baxter's website notes-and it gives Riedel much to think about each day.
"That is part of the very reason why I like this job very much," Riedel said. On a day-to-day basis, he added, he makes use of both the specialized staff that reports to him and nearby academic connections, which helps him understand technological advances in academia. Beyond that, he added, a general sense of the science and technology world, as well as a curious mind, are also helpful.
Riedel is particularly excited about two areas: a late-stage clinical trial for a promising Alzheimer's disease therapy, as well as a therapy in which patients' own stem cells are injected into their heart muscle as a way of treating heart disease. Another area of potential is a cancer therapy that came from Baxter's early-stage R&D group.
Baxter's membership with Research!America, Riedel said, is not only a way to support American competitiveness but also a way to keep the spotlight on challenges whose solutions lie in research.
"In my view, the key global challenges that we have as a global community all depend on scientific discovery and technology to find effective solutions and to find effective ways of tackling these challenges," he said. "And I believe the United States has been a leader in this for decades and must remain a leader. And therefore Research!America emphasizes the need for adequate funding for adequate education in science and all the things that literally have made this nation a great nation but also are areas in which we are beginning to lose our competitive edge."
To learn more, visit www.baxter.com.
I wish it were otherwise, but my last message of the year is not a happy one. The skull-and-crossbones, toxic Washington political environment that is the attention-getting image of our ongoing ad campaign is turning out to be all too real. Despite the post-election words of cooperation, the reality on the ground is that decisions are not getting made, except by default, if then. Cliff-diving is becoming all too real. It is therefore especially sobering to reflect on another reality-that of patients holding on to hope that research will come through for them, and now (rightly) imagining that kicking the can down the road in Washington could mean kicking their hopes to the side of the road. Add to that the reflection that we risk forever dashing the career hopes of so many bright young scientists. The fact that there is so much at stake right now is the reason we are working harder than ever before. That applies to our many partners in advocacy as well. Evidence of that hard work is made clear in significantly increased presence on Capitol Hill and in the media, making it clear to decision makers that research for health is being heard with as much passion-if not with as many dollars-as defense contractors and oil and gas interests.
We can't stop now. All of us involved here in Washington need you, and everyone you are connected with as well, to speak up. Won't you take a moment to reach out to those we have elected to let them know what is at stake in their deliberations? You have the arguments in your head and in your heart; all you have to do is deliver them. We can help; visit www.saveresearch.org to see our advocacy toolkit.
Week of Advocacy
Research!America's Week of Advocacy to Save Research campaign urging Congress to stop potential across-the-board cuts to biomedical and health research yielded significant media coverage. Letters to the editor from Research!America's chair, The Honorable John E. Porter, and American Association for the Advancement of Science CEO and Research!America Board member Alan Leshner, PhD, in The New York Times called on the lame-duck Congress to prioritize research and scientists to become stronger advocates. In an editorial published in Science, Leshner and Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley urged members of the research community to "Speak Up for Science."
Woolley was quoted in multiple articles highlighting the campaign, including BioCentury This Week, National Journal, Charlotte (NC) Business Journal and The Lancet. Other media outlets that covered the campaign include Daily Kos, Kaiser Health News, The Hill and Politico Pro.
Research!America's sign-on letter to congressional leaders was featured in an Inside Health Policy article. The Week of Advocacy "Hill Day" was the focus of a National Journal article with quotes from Marty Saggese and Larry Swanson, PhD, of the Society for Neuroscience, a Research!America member.
An Associated Press article mentioned Research!America as one of several major groups advocating in Washington, DC, "to shape the government's response to the fiscal cliff." The Save Research campaign ad was highlighted as an attention-getter. And a CNN.com article describing how "falling off the fiscal cliff could hurt your health" quoted Eleanor "Ellie" Dehoney, Research!America's vice president for programs and policy, who talked about the Save Research campaign and Hill meetings.
Mary Woolley discussed post-election implications for science and upcoming challenges during a panel discussion on BioCentury This Week that aired November 11 and in a New Scientist article. Eleanor "Ellie" Dehoney was interviewed in LiveScience about the deficit and what scientists should expect in the next four years. "Both sides claim they want to jettison sequestration"-the mandatory cuts-"the question is what replaces it," she said. The article also appeared on MSNBC.com.
Empty Beds Saves Lives
Research!America Board member Herbert Pardes, MD, was a guest columnist in the New York Daily News, explaining why empty hospital beds shouldn't be viewed as a "luxury for deficit hawks." He writes, "The overall lesson of Superstorm Sandy is that our complex and compassionate health care system works during an emergency.
But it won't work if policy makers confuse emergency capacity with waste."
Forecast on Appropriations
Research!America Chair John E. Porter weighed in on a CQ Roll Call article focusing on the next Labor-HHS Chairman. One of the biggest challenges appropriators have, Porter said, is to push against calls to cut domestic spending across the board by the same amount.
It is an exciting time to be part of the fight against neglected tropical diseases. In January 2012, partners in a historic meeting in London pledged new levels of commitment, coordination and collaboration through the "London Declaration on NTDs." The plan to control or eliminate at least 10 of the 17 WHO-listed NTDs by 2020 has galvanized the private sector, country governments, civic associations and multilateral groups to action.
While progress has been made to reach the goals set forward, estimates of how much it will cost are missing an important piece of the puzzle. Urgent research and development needs will be discussed in a meeting convened by the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine Global Health Program on December 13 and 14, titled LIVES IN THE BALANCE: Delivering Medical Innovations for Neglected Patients and Populations. As we make our way to 2020, we must remember that new and improved tools and methods to combat the growing threat of NTDs will not be possible without increased financial commitments to research and development.
American Chemical Society
American Diabetes Association
American Society for Bone and Mineral Research
American Sociological Association
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers/IEEE-USA
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
New York University
Northeast Ohio Medical University
Texas Biomedical Research Institute
University of California Davis School of Medicine
The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
Washington University in St. Louis Center for Health Policy
Weill Cornell Medical College
Not yet a member? Join Research!America today at www.researchamerica.org/become_member.
Download the entire December 2012 Research Advocate as a PDF.