weekly letter

Dear Research Advocate: Votes and other Congressional activities were suspended this week to mourn the passing of our nation’s 41st President, George H.W. Bush. To prevent a government shutdown and provide more time to resolve disagreement around border wall funding, Congress agreed to another continuing resolution (CR) – now awaiting the President’s signature – to extend flat-funding for all remaining federal departments and agencies, including FDA and NSF, until December 21. This end-of-year CR scenario is all too familiar to advocates, and we must all stay the course to secure passage this year. Yesterday, Research!America and the Alliance for Aging Research sent a joint letter to...
Dear Research Advocate: This week has been rife with chilling public health news. You may have seen the widely-covered announcement that life expectancy in the United States has once again dropped, driven for a third year in a row by opioid (including fentanyl) abuse, a surge in suicide, especially in rural areas, and a spike in flu deaths. A sustained decline in life expectancy has not been seen in the U.S. for a century, since the devastation of World War I and the Pandemic flu of 1918. Read the full story . Also in the news are climate reports pointing to interconnected global health risks that are not going to go away on their own. Research and innovation are essential to ensuring our...
Dear Research Advocate: Happy Thanksgiving Week! I’m writing early to give us all a holiday. Last Thursday and Friday, l capped off a week of visiting our members at the McKnight Brain Institute (MBI) and the Health Science Center at the University of Florida. Research!America Chair Emeritus, and former member of Congress, the Honorable John Edward Porter, joined me at a Town Hall session during which students, postdocs, faculty, and administrators asked about the best ways to make the case for research with the current and new Congress. At MBI we heard patient advocate extraordinaire Jennifer French, Neurotech Network Executive Director, forcefully articulate the importance of a needed “...
Dear Research Advocate: Earlier this week I had the privilege of meeting with and addressing faculty and students at Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences and at Rutgers University. During both trips, it was truly energizing to witness the enthusiasm, and sense of accountability, more and more scientists (on every rung of the career ladder) have for influencing the direction of federal research funding and policy. I hope my presentations reinforced and bolstered those terrific instincts...at least that was the goal! As always, I learned easily as much as I shared, including being introduced to an innovative science communication course Rutgers has shaped for doctoral students...
Dear Research Advocate: At our post-election briefing this morning at AAAS in Washington, DC, the discussion focused on opportunities for advocacy given the composition and characteristics of the new Congress, and the importance of building new champions from among the nearly 100 new members of Congress. Of note — at last count, there are seven science-trained new members, a very welcome development! There is no doubt that a divided Congress can cause gridlock, but inaction is not a foregone conclusion, as was emphasized by our Chair, the Hon. Michael N. Castle. There are important, science-relevant issues, such as infrastructure, STEM education, and the opioid crisis, that both parties...
Dear Research Advocate: Last week, the White House laid out its plan for all Cabinet departments to trim their proposed FY20 budgets by 5%. If, as anticipated, these cuts begin with the FY20 spending caps signed into law in 2011 (so-called ‘sequestration’), rather than actual FY19 budgets, the proposed cuts could be shockingly deep—in the 25% range. The potential impact on the NIH budget alone could be a cut of $9.77B, wiping out the increases of the last few years to the point of returning to 2013 funding levels and, when adjusting for inflation, 2001 spending power. Other agencies could take equivalent hits, compromising progress in achieving health goals and sending a clear message to...
Dear Research Advocate: News broke this week that the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is struggling with a still-rising death toll due to Ebola, claiming more than 139 lives since July and spreading beyond the DRC. Meanwhile in the U.S., public health experts are working day and night to understand and overcome acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), now affecting children in 22 or more states. Ebola and AFM are public health crises today. It is predictable that there will be more unexpected crises on top of ongoing threats like the opioid epidemic, the increasing prevalence of obesity, chronic diseases and more. Which is why it defies common sense that investment in global health and in our...
Dear Research Advocate: Earlier today, Rob Smith and Kim Monk of Capital Alpha Partners, and Pete Kirkham of Red Maple Consulting joined Research!America alliance members to discuss the near and mid-term outlook for congressional action on drug pricing, the state of play on appropriations, and other research-relevant issues. Although our speakers noted that much can change in the final week before the election, there were several key takeaways. First, it’s safe to say that the uncertainties surrounding the election and the ongoing interest (both in Congress and the White House) in addressing rising healthcare costs means that drug pricing and issues related to the supply chain more...
Dear Research Advocate, Yesterday, the Senate passed a sweeping opioid package ( H.R. 6 ), previously passed by the House, and sent it to the President for his signature. It includes intensified research into new pain management therapies that factor importantly into a broad array of opioid response strategies. This can’t come too soon: according to a recent study from AHRQ, there were nearly 125,000 opioid-related hospitalizations among older Americans in 2015; more Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016 than the number of American lives lost -- 58,200 -- in the entirety of the Vietnam War. The opioid legislation is an excellent example of much needed bipartisanship; the FY19 Labor-H/...
Dear Research Advocate: I am especially pleased to report that the House passed the Labor-H/Defense FY19 appropriations conference report yesterday, by a vote of 361-61. The President has said he will sign the bill, thus avoiding a partial government shutdown with its myriad negative consequences (including the toll on medical and public health progress). Please do as we have and say thank you to Congressional leadership for passing this bill in timely fashion, with funding that supports putting research to work to find the solutions to what ails us. Of particular note, the bill includes a $2 billion increase for NIH, as well as increases for other federal health agencies under HHS auspices...

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America’s economic destiny lies in innovation, technology, science and research.
The Honorable John E. Porter