A weekly advocacy message from Mary Woolley: What we stand for

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,

The shocking attacks in Beirut and Paris serve as reminders of the global interconnectedness of our society. In so many ways, the tragedies others face are also ours and their challenges are our challenges, health challenges very much included. Last evening I interviewed Dr. Tamar Kokashvili, a grantee of CRDF Global, at their 20th anniversary dinner.  Dr. Kokashvili, who hails from the nation of Georgia, collaborates with University of Maryland scientists to characterize genetic diversity of cholera bacteria (over 200 strains, complicating both diagnosis and treatment). Just in the last few weeks we have learned of cholera outbreaks in Syrian refugee camps, and cholera is reported throughout Iraq; life-threatening disease is part of our war torn, war weary world.  Last month, in his particularly eloquent address to the National Academy of Medicine’s 45th Anniversary Celebration, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim called on the Academy to expand its global health-related work. Global health presents an opportunity to improve security, equity, and delivery-- and research plays a key role in each.

One of the hallmarks of public health is its global focus. Please participate with us next Monday, November 23, during our annual Public Health Thank You Day. Take this opportunity to say thanks to those like Dr. Kokashvili and President Kim who are committed to finding the solutions to what ails us. The conversation will be lively on social media, with the hashtag #PHTYD. Visit our toolkit for ideas of how to participate.

Your advocacy messages are being heard on Capitol Hill.  Appropriators and other Members of Congress are keeping the drumbeat strong for higher budget allocations for research funding. Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) spoke convincingly on the floor yesterday, urging his colleagues to commit to strong support for medical progress and the agencies that advance it. A bipartisan group of 145 House members signed on to a letter to the Appropriations Committee urging FY16 NIH funding of at least $32 billion. And appropriator Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS-03) is seeking more signatures on a letter from conservative members (52 and counting…) advocating for more than $33 billion for NIH in FY16.

Even as appropriations work speeds toward the December 11 deadline, details are surfacing about the much anticipated Senate Innovation bill (the companion to the House 21st Century Cures Act).  We do not expect to see mandatory funding in the first iteration, due out shortly, but we don't take that to mean such funding is off the table. Discussions are reportedly ongoing and promising. The Senate legislation could well follow the pattern of the House bill, which began without dollars attached. 

With Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX-08) sworn in as the new Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee (succeeding Paul Ryan, now Speaker), it is likely we’ll see movement soon on a “tax extenders”  bill. This legislation could be a viable vehicle for repealing, or at least “pausing,” the medical device tax. As you know, I believe it is a strategic mistake for our nation to levy a tax -- particularly an excise or “sin” tax -- on medical innovation. It simply does not make sense to invest federal dollars in faster medical progress while discouraging private sector investment to achieve the same goal.  If you share my view, please tweet members of the the tax writing committees in Congress -- the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee -- urging them to forge a bipartisan agreement this year to repeal the device tax. You can find their Twitter handles and suggested tweets here.

Ensuring that public policy is aligned with the imperative of faster medical progress is what Research!America’s voter education initiative, “Campaign for Cures,” is all about. Join us in this effort! Email Mike Coburn at mcoburn@researchamerica.org for more information.


Mary Woolley

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