weekly letter

Dear Research Advocate: I moderated a session at the always-compelling Aspen Institute’s Spotlight Health conference at the end of last week. We had a robust and “un-sugarcoated” discussion on the dual imperatives of affordability and fast-paced medical progress. Among the many terrific conference sessions were two featuring the newly announced CEO of the Amazon-Berkshire Hathaway-Morgan Stanley initiative, Dr. Atul Gawande. (I should add that he mentioned that they will arrive at a better name!) During his interview with PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff, Dr. Gawande, whom I am proud to say was our Isadore Rosenfeld Advocacy Awardee this past March, made the point that not being thoughtful...
Dear Research Advocate: Advocacy works! The Senate narrowly voted down (48-50) advancing the president’s rescissions package to the Senate floor, this preserving $800 million that otherwise would have been stripped from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI). A special thanks to the Network for Excellence in Health Innovation (NEHI) and to other terrific advocates who helped make the case against the CMMI cut. The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved $8.1 billion for FY19 National Science Foundation funding, a 3.9% increase over FY18. While this number is slightly below the House-approved $8.175 billion, given that the overall increase to non-defense discretionary (...
Dear Research Advocate: The House Appropriations Committee released its FY19 Labor-HHS funding bill earlier today for subcommittee markup tomorrow morning . A few notes on the bill: NIH received $38.3 billion -- an additional $1.25 billion over the FY18 level -- and AHRQ received $334 million -- the same funding level as FY18. After accounting for anticipated, one-time changes to the total (including the transfer of the strategic national stockpile to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness), CDC received a $427 million funding increase. Given that the highly constrained dollars the “Labor-H” Subcommittee had to work with, the NIH, AHRQ and CDC results are definitely a...
Dear Research Advocate: The last few days have been wholly energizing. Yesterday, at the annual BIO International Convention, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion titled “Science Needs Champions: Creating Collective Action to Advance Biotech Innovations for Humanity.” It wasn’t a “happy talk” session; the participants had no interest in candy-coating the challenges entailed in promoting faster progress while fostering the access and affordability needed to secure the highest return on that innovation. The discussion reinforced that there are no easy answers. Policymakers and the health care ecosystem, very much including the science community, need to work together,...
Dear Research Advocate: As of today, with eight months of the federal 2018 fiscal year elapsed, funding uncertainty persists for several programs. Given the recent Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the spread of measles closer to home, it is counterproductive in the extreme to cut federal support to combat disease outbreaks, yet that is included in the administration’s rescissions package and in a recently proposed Senate version as well. The clock for congressional action on rescissions will run out on June 22. That’s why it is timely to take a moment to (1) contact your congressional delegation urging no rescissions, and (2) reach out to those who may be...
Dear Research Advocate: Research!America teamed up with the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), the American Society for Virology (ASV), Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Nancy Messonnier on Monday for a briefing focused on vaccines and other facets of pandemic preparedness. The program, which coincided with the launch of a compelling Smithsonian exhibit entitled Outbreak , proved to be particularly resonant as news of Ebola and Nipah outbreaks proliferate. C-SPAN aired the briefing live, and it has drawn significant media interest including reports in NBC News and U.S. News & World Report . Are you like me and hadn’t heard of Nipah until this week? The current outbreak is in India and the...
Dear Research Advocate: Tomorrow is the final day to nominate outstanding leaders in medical, health and other scientific research for a Research!America 2019 Advocacy Award. Learn more about the 2019 awards and submit nominations here . If you have someone in mind and could use backup to help fill in the submission details, let us help! Email Barbara at BLove@researchamerica.org . Last week, the president unveiled his plan to address drug pricing, the American Patients First plan. In addition to the release, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a request for information (RFI) that established a 60-day window for public comment. Secretary Azar’s written statement on the...
Dear Research Advocate: On Tuesday, President Trump officially sent his rescissions package to Congress, impounding $15.4 billion in discretionary and mandatory spending authority and requesting that Congress rescind (cancel) it. While uncertainty still reigns, it appears that both Houses will, in fact, go through the process of formally reviewing the rescissions package. Members of Congress have a 45-day window to act; if they don’t, it’s back to business as usual. Here is a quick primer the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget put together on the rescissions process. Among the discretionary and mandatory funding cuts included in the package: $400 million in Ebola funding and $800...
Dear Research Advocate: I’ve devoted part of my last two letters to gun violence research, and this one will address it, as well. It seems to me that we are witnessing in real time just why research is essential to addressing what is actually a long-standing and multi-faceted societal challenge, playing out on the streets every day, as well as in schools, concerts and churches. I’m sure all of us have read and heard assertions about what drives individuals to choose gun violence. What’s too often lacking, though, are research-based findings to back up those assertions. If policy changes are taken based on assumptions rather than evidence, we are simply throwing the dice, not identifying...
Dear Research Advocate: It’s “deja vu all over again” -- the current continuing resolution (CR) is set to expire tomorrow (January 19) at midnight. It may go to the wire, but Congress will likely pass a fourth CR to keep the government running until February 16. Last year, CRs dragged on and on until May 5! These serial deadlines are increasingly used as leverage by both sides of the aisle to push for legislative priorities, and thus it is increasingly difficult to pass a budget in a timely fashion. Still, a CR is far, far better than a government shutdown, which shortchanges the American public in many ways and can trigger serious and long-lasting effects on public health . Here is a good...

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We have health challenges in this country that science will provide answers for if given the chance and we haven't given science that opportunity
Mary Woolley, President and CEO, Research!America