A weekly advocacy message from Mary Woolley: Power of the bully pulpit

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,
In his final State of the Union address, President Barack Obama spoke about his vision for the future, “For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the family we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all. Medical research is critical.” The President has placed Vice President Biden at ‘mission control’ for this ‘moonshot’ to cure cancer, and the Vice President is poised to lead. (See my SOTU statement.) Historically, presidential articulation has driven the national commitment to science in ways that leapfrog incremental progress by pulling out all the stops. That’s the kind of moment we’re seeing right now, and it is has captured the attention of the public, media, policymakers and -- critically -- the attention of the science community.   

As just one example of gearing up to accomplish the ‘moonshot’ goal: the National Immunotherapy Coalition, made up of biotech and pharmaceutical industry members, health insurers, academic centers, Bank of America, and community oncologists this week announced the launch of their new program, Cancer MoonShot 2020. This initiative aims to develop and carry out randomized clinical trials for up to 20 different tumor types in as many as 20,000 patients by 2020. This unprecedented cross-sector program shows the staggering capabilities within our community to align incentives and come together for a common good.

Medical research is not only being embraced by the President, the Vice President and their party; indeed, it is a subject that bridges gaps, dissolves partisanship, and encourages collaboration. As Representative Kevin Yoder (R-KS-03) wrote in a recent blog post, “Cancer knows no political party.”  Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) called medical research the “one thing I think the entire Congress agrees on.” Advocacy works!  More and more elected officials are recognizing the need for consistent and robust funding for medical research.

With our sights now on FY17 appropriations, we are at a pivotal point, and must ensure the FY16 increase for NIH was not a one-off exercise, but rather the first step in a renewed U.S. commitment to capitalize on scientific opportunity...across science disciplines and spanning both public and private-sector research and development. The Congressional drivers of the 21st Century Cures Act and its counterpart initiative in the Senate take on challenges across the public-private sector bioscience continuum, because it is a continuum. In a statement Representative Fred Upton (R-MI-06) declared the 21st Century Cures Act his ‘moonshot,’ and urged everyone to tell the Senate we need #CuresNOW.

Spurring medical progress seems to be top of mind for many elected officials, yet the presidential debate held a day after the Paris climate summit didn’t have a word to say about climate change or climate science. Will this week’s debates similarly ignore the heightened attention to defeating cancer? ScienceDebate.org has worked with kids to ask the candidates to talk about science in their newest video. This is the moment to help assure that tonight’s Republican debate on FOX Business and Sunday’s Democratic debate on NBC News include discussions of putting science to work to cure what ails us. Tweet @FoxBusiness and @NBCNews questions for the candidates. Sample questions can be found in our Campaign for Cures toolkit.


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