Mary Woolley's Weekly Letter: Without research, there is no hope

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,

“We are in the profession that aims to come up with answers. We have a mission and a noble one. I often like to point out while our initials are NIH….in circumstances like this we’re the National Institutes of Hope. While fear, anxiety, and stress are all around us, hope can be contagious.” —Francis Collins, MD, PhD

Earlier today, Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), joined us on our alliance member call to provide an overview of NIH’s unprecedented Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV), a partnership between industry and governmental leaders working to speed COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. Dr. Collins also discussed the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) Initiative, unveiled just yesterday. RADx will infuse funding into early innovative technologies to speed the development of rapid and widely accessible COVID-19 testing. 

Research!America board member, Dr. Keith Yamamoto, Professor Emeritus, Vice Chancellor for Science Policy and Strategy, and Director, UCSF Precision Medicine at UC San Francisco, joined the call to discuss COVID-19 related disruptions to the work of postdocs, early-stage investigators, and graduate students, and the broader challenge to medical progress itself. “We have to keep in mind that the whole spectrum that is so essential to being able to understand the mechanism of diseases, the way to prevent, treat, cure it, has stopped. I’m hopeful as well that we can convey that message clearly enough to get the resources so we can reverse the damage.”

If you missed the call or want to relisten, the recording is here.

Earlier this week our members heard from Donna Cryer, President and CEO of the Global Liver Institute (GLI) and interim director of the National Patient-Centered Research Network (PCORnet). Donna shared updates on GLI's comprehensive COVID-19 response program, including a popular Facebook Live series for the patient, caregiver, and research community (in other words, for all of us!) 

Leslie Ritter, the Associate Vice President for Federal Government Relations at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) also joined us to discuss the disruptive impact of COVID-19 on research supported by voluntary health associations, philanthropies, and scientific societies. If you’d like to join a letter urging Congress to help address this challenge, here is the link

A recording of the call with Donna and Leslie is here.

Calling for action against discrimination: We joined a sign-on letter of 50 science societies in support of a Congressional resolution denouncing COVID-19 spurred anti-Asian sentiment. The resolution, introduced by Representative Grace Meng (D-NY-6) in the House with a companion resolution forthcoming from Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI), calls on law enforcement authorities to investigate credible reports of hate crimes against Asian Americans. The science society letter states, “These actions...run counter to the core values of the scientific community and the members we represent.” For more, see this AAAS story

On Capitol Hill: Congressional leadership is assessing priorities for a fifth funding package. Research!America sent a letter today making the case for two funding priorities: 1) addressing the dangerous shortfall in the research resources that Dr. Yamamoto and Leslie Ritter so compellingly related during alliance member calls; and 2) equipping the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to assure our health care system emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger, more resilient and better equipped for the next major health threat.

In regard to the first funding priority, thanks to your outreach and that of others across the research advocacy community, 182 members of the House signed a letter spearheaded by Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO-1) and Fred Upton (R-MI-6) calling for $26 billion in COVID-19 funding for our nation’s federally-funded research enterprise. Congresswomen Jackie Speier (D-CA-14) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA-18) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) are circulating similar Dear Colleague requests, making the case for this crucial bridge funding.

On the second priority, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA-8) are championing supplemental funding for AHRQ. Wonder what specific questions about the COVID-19 impact on health care need answering? Check out this terrific report AcademyHealth recently released detailing those questions, and take a moment to tweet your support for boosted AHRQ funding! 

Act soon: If you haven’t registered for next week’s (May 6, 2020) alliance member call with Dr. Peter Hotez, please reserve your seat. Dr. Hotez (among many distinctions) is Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development. 

Check out this blog post about Vaccine Confidence, part of our continually updated COVID-19 resource webpage. I hope you’ll also read our newest guest blog, delving into much needed research on endometriosis.

Stay well, stay safe, and stay connected.

 
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Without research, there is no hope.
The Honorable Paul G. Rogers