Mary Woolley's Weekly Letter: Time To Think Big

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,

This past Monday, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield was our guest for the first of two alliance member calls this week, stressing the roles we all have to play: “I think this is an all-of-the nation response, not just an all-government response…. There’s no doubt we're going to learn a lot of lessons. But, I am 100 percent confident when we get to the other side, we're going to be so much stronger.” We are grateful to Director Redfield for spending time with us. Read more here.

Innovation is key: Dr. Redfield repeatedly called for innovation: “I look forward to the innovation that we’re going to see from many of [Research!America’s] members to improve the tools we have for diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.”

The importance of innovation was also stressed by both speakers during our second alliance member call. As part of his overview of BARDA’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Rick Bright, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and BARDA Director, encouraged Research!America members to submit ideas for medical countermeasures (MCMs) to MedicalCounterMeasures.gov. (To foster just this kind of urgently needed innovation, collaboration, and non-duplication of effort, the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) is curating a COVID-19 Research Registry vetted by experts in the field of virology and related disciplines.)

Scott Whitaker, President and CEO of AdvaMed, discussed the medical device sector’s innovative efforts to produce diagnostics, ventilators, and personal protective equipment (PPE) at an accelerated rate during the COVID-19 outbreak. He stressed that cooperation between the private sector and federal government has been crucial to the response. If you missed the call, catch up on it here.

United We Stand: The challenges we are facing from COVID-19 are both cross-sector and cross-border. The virus doesn’t discriminate. We signed on to an important letter supporting congressional resolutions led by Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY-6) and Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) that underscores the importance of global collaboration in defeating the pandemic and condemns the wholly unjustified and corrosive effects of anti-Asian sentiment. The deadline for signing on to the letter is tomorrow. Email Joanne Carney at AAAS at jcarney@aaas.org to learn more. 

On (and off) Capitol Hill: Barring an urgent vote, members of Congress will be staying at home to honor physical distancing until at least May 4, 2020. Nonetheless, negotiations on FY21 appropriations continue. Research!America sent a letter to Appropriations leadership expressing our support for modifying the FY21 budget caps to provide the funding flexibility needed to address COVID-19, build out our permanent public health preparedness and response capacity, and bolster overall investment in NIH, CDC, FDA, AHRQ, NSF, BARDA, and our nation’s other research agencies.

Securing U.S. R&D Capacity: Negotiations are also ongoing on a fourth emergency funding bill.  Research!America is participating in a broadscale effort to secure the resources needed to ensure our research ecosystem recovers from the operational and financing havoc COVID-19 is wreaking. As this CRS report details, research universities and other academic research institutions, as well as federal laboratories across the country, are confronting short, mid- and longer-term challenges associated with stalled and reprogrammed research. Crucial research financing from sources other than the federal government — foundations, state and local government, venture funds, etc. — is also in jeopardy. Use this editable email to urge your representatives in Congress to champion this cause!.

On Wednesday, April 22 we are convening a virtual roundtable during which the Foundation Fighting Blindness will share a proposal for attracting pension funds and other investors to help fill COVID-19-related research financing gaps. We hope you’ll join us! Email Anna Platt at aplatt@researchamerica.org to register.

For Alliance Members: Please join us on Monday, April 20, 2020 for a call with Dr. Harvey Fineberg, President of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and chair of the National Academies Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases, who will discuss the steps needed to contain and ultimately end the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ll also take some time to discuss and brainstorm advocacy ideas. Register here.

Stay well, stay safe, and stay connected.

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If concerted, long-term investments in research are not made, America will lose an entire generation of young scientists.
Brenda Canine, PhD; McLaughlin Research Institute, Montana