Mary Woolley's Weekly Letter: RISE to the Challenge

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,

Public Support for a Science Strong Future: A new survey commissioned by Research!America affirms Americans’ support for investing in research as a top priority for the new Congress and Administration. Four of five express strong support for the value of both public and private sector research and innovation, and the percentage of Americans indicating support for basic research “even if it brings no immediate benefits” grew from 77% in August 2020 to 85% in January 2021, with three of four now favoring doubling federal spending on medical research.

As reassuring as the new survey data is in most regards, one in five Americans say they have lost confidence in science in the past year. As Dr. Sudip Parikh, CEO of AAAS and Research!America Board Member, emphasized in a recent article in Pew’s Trend magazine, “Science is not just for the few. It is for everyone and can be used by anyone. We must find new and better ways to connect the practice and use of science to inform and shape our communities, our country, and our world.”

On the Hill: The House Energy and Commerce Committee today marked up legislation that will be one part of the $1.9 trillion emergency spending package. There is crucial funding in the bill for COVID-19 response, including much-needed resources for the CDC and the FDA (read the Alliance for a Stronger FDA’s statement here). However, the bill did not include funding to shore up our COVID-19 compromised research capacity.

Representative Fred Upton (R-MI) attempted to change that by offering an amendment to add $10 billion to NIH for research relief and other purposes, but because the amendment would have necessitated a $10 billion cut somewhere else in the bill, it was rejected. The importance of addressing research funding gaps is gaining attention, but we have more work to do. Read about the role of the Research!America alliance in providing examples of the pandemic’s research impact, and please email Anna Platt if you can offer additional insights.

Research Champions: Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Upton were joined by 75 of their colleagues in introducing the Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act. Senators Edward Markey (D-MA) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), joined by Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Susan Collins (R-ME), introduced a companion bill in the Senate. This legislation would authorize approximately $25 billion in funding for research relief. Read Research!America’s statement detailing the crucial importance of the RISE Act and take action in support of the bill. 

COVID-19 Complexities: Vaccine hesitancy, a reality for which there is no catch-all solution, is among the challenges the current relief package seeks to address. Sixty Black members of the National Academy of Medicine, including former and current Research!America Board Members, are taking action now. Read their op-ed here.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project, an effort Research!America has joined, is sponsoring a webinar: “Building Vaccine Confidence in Diverse Communities” in partnership with Washington, D.C.’s CBS affiliate on Wednesday, February 17, 2021 at 12:30 p.m. ET. Register and submit questions here.

COVID-19 treatments are critical, but the treatment landscape is complex. What are the available treatments? When do they come into play and what are their impacts? What factors explain the reported underutilization of these treatments? For answers from a panel including AMA President and Research!America Board Member Dr. Jim Madara and other distinguished experts, join us February 25, 2021 at 1 p.m. ET for “Science v. COVID-19: Promising COVID-19 Treatments Explained.” Register here.

NIH in Focus: As this letter is going to press, President Biden is delivering remarks at the NIH. This visit so early in his presidency reinforces his continued commitment to the agency and the life-saving progress it engenders.

On Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 12 p.m. ET, UCSF Vice Chancellor for Science Policy and Strategy and Research!America Board Member Dr. Keith Yamamoto will join a Congressional Biomedical Research Caucus briefing exploring NIH’s legacy and ongoing impact. Register here and spread the word! 

Alliance Webinar Recap: Earlier today, Dr. Kafui Dzirasa, K. Ranga Rama Krishnan Endowed Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University Medical Center, delivered extraordinarily compelling remarks about the necessity of diverse participation in science. Dr. Dzirasa underscored how the lack of BIPOC researchers, and the difficulty they face in securing funding, contributes to their communities being shortchanged by “hand-me-down cures” and compromises our nation’s ability to be globally competitive. If you did not have an opportunity to join, watch his remarks here.

Change of Plans: The alliance member meeting with NIH’s John Burklow, originally scheduled for Tuesday, February 16, 2021 at 1:00 p.m. ET, has been postponed until early March. Invites will be on their way soon for alliance member meetings with key congressional staff working on 21st Century Cures 2.0 and Principal Deputy Director of the CDC, Dr. Anne Schuchat.

Stay well, stay safe, and stay connected.  

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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Funding research gives all of us a better chance of living a healthier life.
Pam Hirata, heart disease survivor