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The Senate is busy and so are we

Dear Research Advocate:

This morning, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a hearing with Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, the nominee for director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) said Dr. Droegemeier is eminently well qualified to lead OSTP and he hopes for a speedy confirmation. Use this editable email to reinforce that sentiment with your Senators!  You can read Dr. Droegemeier’s testimony for the hearing here.  

Also in the Senate today, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on “Prioritizing Cures: Science and Stewardship at the National Institutes of Health.” The recorded webcast can be found here. In his opening remarks, NIH Director Francis Collins addressed the need for heightened vigilance to prevent the misappropriation of IP and the integrity of the peer review process. Earlier this week, Dr. Collins sent a letter to research institutions across the nation about these concerns, and today he issued a statement that further elucidates the issues and NIH’s response to them. Support for federal research grants and the Bayh-Dole tech transfer process hinges on accountability and integrity. We’ll monitor this evolving issue closely and keep you informed.

Some very good news hot off the press: The Senate just passed, 85-7, a minibus package of the FY19 Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services funding bills. The bill provides a $2 billion increase for NIH and, given the constraints on non-defense discretionary spending overall, favorable funding levels for most other research agencies. Quoted in a New York Times  article, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said it has been 15 years since the Senate last passed a Labor-HHS spending bill before October 1st. While this is not the final leg of the journey and we all need to continue pressing until a final package is signed into law, today’s vote is a leap forward. A victory for bipartisanship (and, of course, advocacy!)

Senator Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) remarks yesterday on the minibus are especially strong. From reinforcing the power of bipartisanship to underscoring the significance of increased NIH funding to asserting the need to ramp up US R&D in the face of global competition, the Senator offers a compelling perspective on federal policy and process imperatives.  

We’re joining the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research in their August push to strengthen and grow the NIH Caucus, co-chaired by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL). The Caucus currently has 20 members; we think it should be 100, especially considering that NIH funding reaches institutions in every state! If you do not see your Senators on this list of Caucus members, please send an email urging them to join.

We are now only two weeks out from our National Health Research Forum, September 6th. The forum is at capacity, but I hope you will bookmark the livestream link and join us virtually! Our afternoon will close with a conversation between Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II and Susan Dentzer, CEO of the Network for Excellence in Health Innovation (NEHI) and a Research!America board member. Secretary Azar was recently named one of Modern Healthcare’s 100 most influential people in healthcare. Research!America board members Dr. Georges Benjamin, Executive Director, American Public Health Association and Dr. Jim Madara, CEO and EVP, American Medical Association also made the list! Kudos to these exceptional leaders.


Mary Woolley