A Weekly Advocacy Message From Mary Woolley: The News is Not Good

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate: 

The news from the CDC this week is concerning. For the first time in over a decade the overall, all-cause mortality rate for the U.S. is higher than in the preceding year. This unexpected news comes on the heels of last week’s announcement confirming the first U.S. case of an E. coli infection resistant to colistin, a last-resort antibiotic, reminding us of just how important it is to curtail and outpace antimicrobial resistance. And we have word of the second baby born in the U.S. with microcephaly due to Zika, as well as a new estimate that 300 pregnant women in the U.S. have the virus.

On their own, each of these stories should serve as a wake-up call for policymakers; taken together, they simply can't be ignored! The Senate Labor-H Appropriations Subcommittee FY17 marks up next Tuesday, June 7. I hope our elected representatives will keep these alarming reports in mind when allocating funding for NIH, CDC and AHRQ. (But just to be sure -- since, after all, “hope is not a plan,” -  I will send a message to each of them. Won’t you join me in making concerned voices heard?) 

More alarming news: the FY17 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), currently under Senate consideration, includes two provisions that threaten critically important research. One of these would severely limit the medical research that the Department of Defense can conduct or support, and the other would burden the administrative operations of the research program. The bottom line is that these provisions would reduce federal investment in lifesaving research, despite the fact that our nation is already grossly underinvesting in such research relative to need and benefit. Ask any veteran’s family!

Research!America has signed-on to a group letter to the Senate expressing opposition to these provisions, and we have written a thank you letter to Senators Durbin (D-IL) and Cochran (R-MS), who have introduced an amendment to strip these provisions from the bill. The Senate is likely to consider the NDAA next week, so time is of the essence. Use our letter as a template and send one of your own. Let us know if we can help! Finally, join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #researchnotredtape.

And ongoing worrisome -- if not outright bad -- news: the Cures legislation in the Senate remains stalled. Research!America and EveryLife Foundation are joining forces for a #CuresNOW Day of Action on Tuesday, June 7. Your participation is truly important, since if enough of us push now this bill can make it into law, leveraging new dollars and new policies to turbocharge progress and save lives. Please sign up now for the #CuresNOW Thunderclap (for those of you new to Thunderclap -- I certainly was-- learn more here). I encourage you to personalize your own #CuresNOW graphic to share on social media, and share the action alert platform with your network. Call or e-mail Rachel Weissman at 571-482-2716 or rweissman@researchamerica.org to share ideas on how to make this day make all the difference.

Research!America is partnering on two outside-the-beltway events next week. On Monday, we will join Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) in hosting a statewide forum to explore the role of medical innovation as a catalyst for economic growth in Ohio and across the nation. The program, featuring several members of Congress and academic, federal agency and business leaders, will be live streamed. Then on Wednesday, Research!America board members, Dr. Bill Hait, of Janssen, and Dr. Keith Yamamoto, of UCSF, will sit down at the BIO International Conference in San Francisco, CA to discuss Bill’s concept of “immorbidity,” a perspective on medicine in which priorities shift from treating or curing diseases to preventing or delaying them. More on this in future letters...

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Without continued support for health research, many of the most promising young scientists, their ideas and a myriad of potentially life-changing scientific breakthroughs will vanish into oblivion.
Paul Marinec, PhD; University of California San Francisco