Weekly Letter from Mary Woolley: Touching Hearts and Minds

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate:

Votes and other Congressional activities were suspended this week to mourn the passing of our nation’s 41st President, George H.W. Bush. To prevent a government shutdown and provide more time to resolve disagreement around border wall funding, Congress agreed to another continuing resolution (CR) – now awaiting the President’s signature – to extend flat-funding for all remaining federal departments and agencies, including FDA and NSF, until December 21. This end-of-year CR scenario is all too familiar to advocates, and we must all stay the course to secure passage this year.

Yesterday, Research!America and the Alliance for Aging Research sent a joint letter to congressional leadership making the case for repealing the medical device excise tax.

Our nation cannot afford, in fact or as a precedent, actions that selectively divert investment away from the goal of driving fast-paced medical progress. That’s what this tax does, and that’s why Congress has twice, on a bipartisan basis, suspended the tax.

Think about just one category of devices: diagnostics. It would be difficult to overstate the multi-faceted benefits of early and accurate diagnosis. We need investment to flow toward, not away from, their development. It is time for Congress to close this chapter by repealing the device tax altogether.  

In a recent development in regard to the Department of Health and Human Services’ review of fetal tissue research, HHS assistant secretary Brett Giroir sent a letter to Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) stating that the department is planning to move forward on exploring alternatives to fetal tissue research. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is planning to review these alternatives next Thursday, December 13.

The idea of stopping one beneficial avenue of research because other beneficial avenues of research exist is truly disturbing. Patients don’t have the luxury of time, which is what is implied when policymakers consider taking valuable research off the table. Every single day, diseases that we can overcome take loved ones from us. There are no “alternatives” to fetal tissue research – there are a number of research paths, one of which is fetal tissue research. We should be leveraging all of them.

On this important topic, Jennifer Zeitzer, Director of Public Affairs at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) and Michael Heintz, Director of Advocacy and Training at the Society for Neuroscience (SfN), are our featured guests at Research!America’s next alliance member meeting, which will take the form of a conference call at 1:30 p.m. ET this coming Tuesday, December 11. Jennifer and Michael will provide an update on the challenge to fetal tissue research, and we’ll also take some time to brainstorm 2019 advocacy priorities and strategies. Please join us! Email Jacqueline (jlagoy@researchamerica.org) if you would like to join.

I hope you will take a moment to review (and keep in your back pocket for advocacy purposes) recent poll data reinforcing Americans’ support for federal investment in scientific research. Overall, 80% of registered voters approve of using taxpayer funds to invest in research and 94% say it is important for the U.S. to be the global leader in scientific research and technology.  

These findings, part of a survey commissioned by the Science Coalition, comport well with our own survey work over the last 25 years. As you make plans to engage freshman members of Congress, letting them know that the individuals they serve appreciate the value of science and science investment is a terrific starting point.

As welcome as this new evidence of support is, we know that data by itself won’t heighten advocacy impact; it is crucial to engage both heart and mind. My guess is that any federal policymaker or staffer you speak with knows someone who is living with migraine, a condition emblematic of the enormous personal toll chronic conditions can take. RSVP now for a Research!America-hosted webinar on Tuesday, December 11 from noon to 1:00 p.m. ET to discuss progress (achieved and needed) against this insidious health threat.

Finally, I am pleased to announce that Jennifer Luray has joined Research!America as a Senior Advisor. Jenny brings invaluable experience as a health policy champion – see our press release for more on her impressive career to date – we are excited to have her as a member of the team.

 

Sincerely,

 

Mary Woolley

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You can change the image of things to come. But you can’t do it sitting on your hands … The science community should reach out to Congress and build bridges.
The Honorable John E. Porter