A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Pennies on the Dollar

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate:

While Senate leadership had originally planned to pass a continuing resolution (CR) this week and leave town, negotiations are ongoing. Odds still are that a short-term CR providing $1.1 billion in emergency Zika funding will be signed into law before the 9/30/16 deadline. We’ll keep you posted.

The 21st Century Cures Initiative (Cures) is on hold once again. Earlier today, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton’s (R-MI-06) staff reported progress on a compromise bill crafted to pass both houses of Congress this year, but said it will not be considered until after the elections. 

Cures advocacy may have a “rock of Sisyphus” feel to it, but there’s actually an upside to the protracted process. Congress has a notoriously short attention span, yet the importance of faster medical progress has received nearly continuous attention for more than two years now. Cures helped set the stage for the $2 billion increase NIH received in FY16. Coupled with the cancer moonshot and -- hot off the presses -- the Zuckerberg Chan Initiative (more on that in future letters), Cures is creating the opportunity to make medical progress a top national priority - and keep it there. That’s an opportunity we should seize. Use this editable message to your congressional delegation to reinforce the importance of Cures.

What priority does our nation assign to medical progress now? In 2015, we spent less than 5 cents of each health dollar on medical and health R&D. That’s one of the findings in our newly released report: U.S. Investments in Medical and Health Research and Development, which provides detailed data on 2013-2015 spending. The report, produced with the assistance of the economic research and analysis firm, TEConomy Partners, also shows steep changes in public and private spending growth over the reporting period. The bottom line: medical and health R&D investment is growing, but at pennies on the health dollar and haphazardly. It’s time for some strategic, system-wide thinking around federal funding, tax policy and other variables bearing on U.S. R&D. Read the full press release here.

Our report reaffirms that industry invests more than any other sector, accounting for 64.7% of total R&D spending in 2015. Take a minute to read this commentary on the public/ private engine behind medical progress by former U.S. Congressman, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Research!America board member Rush Holt, Ph.D.

The first presidential debate is this Monday, September 26 at 9:00 p.m. ET. It will focus on “The Direction of America,” “Achieving Prosperity,” and “Securing America.” U.S. R&D capacity should factor into all three discussions. Will it? Research!America wrote an open letter to debate moderators urging them to ask research-relevant questions. Our Campaign for Cures continues to press candidates for their views on medical research and innovation.  Explore the interactive map to see what they are saying!

Please join us for a Capitol Hill briefing, Oral Health in an Aging Nation: An Unmet Public Health Challenge, on October 4 from noon to 1:00 p.m. ET. Experts will discuss the ways in which research-driven policies can be deployed to improve oral health access and outcomes for older Americans. RSVP here or email Rachel Weissman at rweissman@researchamerica.org.

Lastly, Research!America’s Policy and Advocacy team has an opening for a Science Policy Intern. Details here.


Mary Woolley

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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