How Can Political Candidates Push for Medical Progress? Jay Gershen Weighs In

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The Campaign for Cures Election 2016 blog features news, analysis, commentary and data about the presidential candidates and congressional races in key states on issues relevant to medical progress. Janice Lloyd, former USA Today senior editor and health reporter, manages The Campaign for Cures blog. You can reach Janice at   Follow Campaign for Cures, a national voter education initiative, on Twitter and Facebook and visit

How Can Political Candidates Push for Medical Progress? Jay Gershen Weighs In

Janice Lloyd

Research!America has invited research leaders in academia, industry and patient advocacy to discuss how candidates running for national office can make medical research and innovation a higher national priority. Jay Gershen, DDS, Ph.D., president of the Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), shared his thoughts.

Question: Why is it important for candidates to share their views with voters about how to advance medical progress?

Answer:  Advancing medical progress is an issue that speaks to a strong majority of Americans and cuts across party lines. The medical advancements being created at universities like NEOMED impact all individuals — and the data shows that this is clearly understood by voters.

Our government leaders don’t want to increase taxes, but when you consider advances in medical research, like the work being done at NEOMED, perhaps an increase is a valid consideration.

According to Research!America’s recent national public survey, 56 percent of respondents believe Congress does not allocate enough funding on research that aims to prevent, cure and treat all diseases and disabilities, while 78 percent feel health promotion and disease prevention should be a top priority for Congress. Furthermore, a staggering 85 percent believe it is important for a candidate running for national office to make increased funding for medical research a high priority of their platform.

The data also indicates that voters understand the direct impact of using federal funds on medical research, as 73 percent acknowledge that their health has improved over the course of their lifetime as a direct result of this research.

The mental and physical health of the population underlies our success as a society. From an investment strategy it is smarter to invest in research at all levels to advance medical progress and thus wellness of U.S. citizens than to invest in disease management.

Candidates need to understand this paradigm and to be able to articulate convincingly their support to advance medical progress as their overarching theme of public service.

Q: How can elected officials help create a climate that encourages private and public sector research and innovation?

A: First of all, elected officials need to articulate the priority of medical research and innovation as an overarching theme. Public sector research and innovation need to be funded at levels consistent with that overarching priority. The legacy processes required for patent protection through the USPTO and FDA oversight of new drug/device/biologic development need to be discarded and new, streamlined processes implemented in order to encourage the private sector. New strategies need to be advocated that reward collaboration between public and private sectors. Elected officials need to espouse the attitude that advancing medical progress is not motivated by profit but by public good, health and well-being.

Q: What can elected officials do to expedite the time it takes to find new cures, therapies and medical devices to improve quality of life for Americans?

A: Americans need to be educated to better understand the research process in order to manage expectations. Research that yields negative results is still important research. And, as stated above, the legacy processes required for patent protection through the USPTO and FDA oversight of new drug/device/biologic development need to be discarded and new, streamlined processes implemented. Elected officials need to advocate for programs to be implemented through the DHHS to fund “high-risk, high-reward” research.

Q: What can policymakers do to stimulate the biomedical industry to bring more businesses and jobs to states?

A: The keys to success in the biomedical industry are patience and resiliency. The journey from basic research to product development through commercialization is long and arduous. Because of this, the availability of continuous funding is extremely vital for the long-term success of biomedical entities, both public and private. There will always be bumps in the road and they are imminent. However, we must stay the course if these setbacks are to be overcome so breakthroughs can occur. These breakthroughs lead to robust commercialization processes that ultimately stimulate our economy while also improving the health of our communities.

Critical mass is essential, as seen by Research Triangle Park, Boston and San Diego – to name a few. Collaboration between caregivers and researchers is essential for success. Regional assets must be leveraged. Tax incentives, relocation incentives, increased Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) funding and state funded programs all need to be rowing in the same direction.

Q: In order to attract and retain the brightest minds in science, what needs to be done at the federal level to support current and future scientists?

A: With state support for higher education continuing to dwindle, federal grants from the likes of the National Institute of Health and the Medicaid Technical Assistance and Policy Program are paramount for us to cultivate and retain world-class researchers who continue to make significant breakthroughs in health research. Because of the support we receive through these highly competitive federal grants, we have some of the most renowned experts within our five research focus areas. These areas include: auditory neuroscience, community-based mental health, metabolic and cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal biology and neurodegenerative diseases and aging. Because of the teams we employ and the services they utilize, these areas help create jobs and make profound strides in the scientific community right here in rural Rootstown, Ohio. 

Thousands of promising research programs/ideas go unfunded because the pay line at DHHS agencies is at best 10 percent. Additional support targeted to NIH and NSF is critical. Likewise scientists need to make a fair wage – oftentimes not the case in the public sector. Support for trainee research scholars needs to be expanded. Clinician scientists struggle to balance clinical volumes and research time and need relief from these competing efforts.


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Presidential Candidates Should Participate in Debate on Science

Source: A Research!America and poll of U.S. adults conducted in partnership with Zogby Analytics in September 2015.