Mary Woolley's Weekly Letter: Research Relief is COVID Relief

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,

On Capitol Hill: Regrettably, there are no dollars to fill COVID-19 engendered research gaps — meaning all the many research programs put on hold or even shelved as the pandemic consumes attention — in the $1.9T relief package the House will vote on next week. That’s why we must all advocate for inclusion in the next supplemental, which is in the works. So much is at stake — answers for patients and the ability of researchers to generate those answers. The American taxpayer has invested a great deal in research and researchers; it is penny wise and pound foolish to leave so many of them high and dry at this point. Your Members of Congress can urge Congressional leadership to include research relief in the next supplemental spending bill. Use this editable email or tweet to make the case.

Confirmation hearings: You can listen in as Xavier Becerra, President Biden’s nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary, appears next week before the Senate HELP and Senate Finance Committees. The HELP Committee is expected to announce hearings for two other key health positions soon: Surgeon General nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy and Assistant Secretary of Health nominee Dr. Rachel Levine. Posts for whom nominees have not been named include FDA Commissioner and CMS Administrator (several reports say President Biden will nominate Chiquita Brooks-LaSure for the latter). 

The Science and Technology Action Committee, which I co-chair, sent a letter to Senate Commerce Committee leaders yesterday urging quick confirmation of Dr. Eric Lander to lead the White House Office on Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), a role newly elevated to the Cabinet. The letter and how to join the growing list of endorsements of the Science and Technology Action Plan are linked here: https://sciencetechaction.org/

COVID-19 Treatments: Public and policymaker conversations have been focused on getting vaccines into arms — an urgent imperative indeed. But let’s not become inured to the reality that people are dying of COVID at an alarming rate —  for much of the month of January, two people died every minute. Join us Thursday, February 25, 2021, at 1 p.m. ET as our distinguished panel of experts navigate the complex COVID-19 treatment landscape in a webinar entitled “Science v. COVID-19: Promising COVID-19 Treatments Explained.” The research powering these therapeutic interventions, as in the case of vaccines, is decades in the making and has been ratcheted up in recent months. You can register here and learn more in our new COVID-19 fact sheet

Opportunities to Join Timely Conversations: CDC is convening the National Forum on COVID-19 Vaccine on February 22-24, 2021. The event, bringing together stakeholders across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, will discuss best practices for combatting vaccine hesitancy, ensuring vaccine equity, and using data to guide vaccination strategies. Learn more about the event and register here.

A key part of CDC’s surveillance efforts is its Advanced Molecular Detection (AMD) initiative. AMD Director Dr. Gregory Armstrong will participate in a congressional briefing hosted by the American Society for Microbiology on February 23, 2021, at 12 p.m. ET entitled “Tracking COVID-19 Variants: The Role of Advanced Molecular Detection and Genomic Surveillance.” Register here.

When was the last time you upgraded your skill set?: Mentorship is important in every field, and even more so for scientists from underrepresented groups. The National Academies has released the latest in a series of podcasts with leading scientists about the role of mentorship in their careers. Listen to UCSF Vice Chancellor for Science Policy and Strategy and Research!America board member Dr. Keith Yamamoto, and theoretical physicist Dr. Jim Gates, reflect on their experiences here. To learn more about the Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM report, and for a guide to implementing best practices at your institution, visit NAS.edu/mentoring

Alliance Member Meeting: Join us next week, Friday, February 26, 2021, at 2:30 p.m. ET, when Sherie Lou Santos, Health Policy Director for Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO), and Mark Ratner, Deputy Chief of Staff for Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI), discuss the legislative outlook for the 117th Congress, including updates on 21st Century Cures 2.0 and the RISE Act. Register here.

Stay well, stay safe, and stay connected.  

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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