A weekly advocacy message from Mary Woolley: An announcement, some breaking news, and a 2017 advocacy letter

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate: 
With great pleasure, we made a big announcement this week -- Chairmen Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Tom Cole (R-OK-04) will be receiving the Whitehead Award at our Annual Awards Dinner on March 16 at the Mellon Auditorium. I hope you will be there to join us in honoring these champions for the tremendous commitment they have shown to advancing medical progress.
By now you may have heard the news that the Cures initiative is on the move! The Senate HELP Committee released its plan to consider multiple pieces of legislation that support the same objectives as the House 21st Century Cures Act (HR 6). Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) announced the Committee’s plans this way: “The House has completed its work on the 21st Century Cures Act. The President has announced his support for a precision medicine initiative and a cancer ‘moonshot.’ It is urgent that the Senate finish its work and turn into law these ideas that will help virtually every American.” The fact that Chairman Alexander referenced the House bill is important, a sign that the Senate is open to negotiating a House-Senate compromise incorporating provisions from HR 6.  You will not be surprised to hear that one of Research!America’s priorities is to ensure the final bill includes the funding needed to realize the promise of faster progress.  Stay tuned for suggestions on how you can be involved in specific advocacy.
A major theme throughout the Cures process has been a call for patient-centered research and care, including in drug and device development. The FDA has responded by seeking to expand the number of disease areas addressed by their Patient-Focused Drug Development initiative (PFDD). The administration has asked patient advocacy organizations interested in organizing meetings on heightening patient engagement to submit letters of intent to patientfocused@fda.hhs.gov (more details and guidelines here). Please consider participating in this opportunity. 
Last week’s Republican and Democratic presidential debates varied in tone and content, but were alike in that they (once again) featured no discussion of the role of science in public policymaking, nor in driving economic development, nor working to cure what ails us. With the Iowa Caucus less than two weeks away, presidential candidates are squeezing in one more set of debates in Iowa before decisions are set in stone. A Democratic ‘town hall’ is taking place this Monday on CNN and the next Republican debate is a week from today on Fox News; both start at 9:00 PM EST. We must all keep pushing candidates, moderators and producers to discuss what candidates will do to speed medical progress. Tweet your questions to the moderators: CNN’s @ChrisCuomo and Fox News’ @BretBaier and @megynkelly. And of course, please join our Campaign for Cures!
In this week’s interview with the Washington Examiner I spoke about the tremendous progress advocates have made in advancing biomedical research. The momentum is strong, as evidenced by the FY16 appropriations for science agencies, positive changes in tax policy for innovation, the Senate’s movement on a Cures companion, and the President’s State of the Union “moonshot.” There is much more to be done, but I hope you’ll join me in approaching all that is in front of us this year with enthusiasm and optimism. It’s a fact that advocacy works, and we can’t stop now!
But if we aspire to have even more impact in 2017, we must work together. My thanks to the many members who joined us last Friday for a Research!America alliance meeting to discuss advocacy priorities for 2016. The topics ranged from research agency funding levels for FY17 to the House Cures and Senate Innovations initiative, to concrete strategies for advancing private sector innovation. If you weren’t able to join us, please weigh in with me or Ellie Dehoney -- we’d love to hear from you.

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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