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A Busy Week in Washington

Dear Research Advocate,

Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD), former Senate Majority Leader, and former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge (R-PA), co-authored a powerful and timely opinion piece in The Hill stressing the need to out-innovate the next COVID-19 variant and to prepare for the next pandemic. We were pleased to assist in the research behind the piece. Importantly, the authors note, “preparedness requires significant and sustained investment in research and development.”

Daschle and Ridge also urge Congress to follow the recommendations of the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense’s April 2022 report, the Athena Agenda: Advancing the Apollo Program for Biodefense. Among its recommendations, the report makes the case for developing “at least one vaccine candidate for each of the 26 viral families that infect humans.”

Please share their commentary and urge your Members of Congress to continue prioritizing investment in research and development for pandemic preparedness with this editable email.

Another Worthwhile Read on All Things Pandemic: In The New Yorker‘s in-depth interview with White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha, MD, he calls for action on the need for supplemental funding to address the challenges posed by COVID-19 and future viruses. Dr. Jha was a Research!America 2022 Advocacy Award recipient; nominations are open through June 30 for our 2023 Advocacy Awards!

On The Hill: The House Appropriations Committee is considering FY23 appropriations legislation, hoping to pass all 12 of its bills by the time the House adjourns on July 29. Various subcommittees are in the process of marking up their bills. Please check in next week for details of appropriations levels for relevant research agencies.

Despite progress in the House, the Senate is not expected to reach an agreement on overall discretionary spending before FY22 ends on September 30. Not for the first time – and not a good pattern – Congress is likely to pass a continuing resolution in September to fund the government until an FY23 spending agreement can be reached.

ARPA-H: Also on the Hill, the House passed H.R.5585, bipartisan legislation led by Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA), authorizing ARPA-H, by a vote of 336-85. The bill places the agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, not within the NIH, unlike the Biden Administration and companion Senate legislation. The bill does not require Senate confirmation of the ARPH-H director, while the Senate bill does. Stay tuned for more and join our alliance discussion on ARPA-H next week (details below).

We are grateful to Rep. Eshoo for her leadership; we are also grateful to Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Brett Guthrie (R-KY), E&C Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), E&C Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and E&C Committee Members Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Fred Upton (R-MI) for their relentless efforts to ensure this new agency is positioned to responsibly fulfill a unique and meaningful role in the public-private R&D ecosystem.

Gun Violence Legislation: The Senate voted twice this week to advance the first substantive gun control legislative package in 10 years; Thursday’s procedural vote passed 65-34. Both the Senate and House are likely to pass the bill by the week’s end.

Research!America joined other science organizations, led by the American Psychological Association and the American Association for Dental, Oral, and Craniofacial Research, in signing a letter to the Senate stating: “Gun violence should be considered a public health issue, not a political one—an epidemic that needs to be addressed with research and evidence-based strategies that will reduce morbidity and mortality.”

OSTP Director: The White House nominated Arati Prabhakar, PhD, to serve as Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Once confirmed, Dr. Prabhakar will also be the president’s Chief Advisor for Science and Technology, making her a member of the President’s Cabinet. (Up until last year, this position did not have Cabinet rank.)

The White House received an outpouring of support for the nomination, including bipartisan praise from former OSTP Directors. Read our statement in which we urge Congress to confirm Dr. Prabhakar’s nomination as swiftly as possible.

Meeting America’s Public Health Challenge: On Tuesday, The Commonwealth Fund issued a set of recommendations to transform the U.S. public health system. The hard-hitting report calls out several significant weaknesses in the current system and emphasizes the importance of addressing ongoing and future health crises, advancing equity, and earning the public’s trust. The report notes that “the window for change is open, and the moment of opportunity is now.”

Reaching the Peak: It’s in everyone’s best interest to support future generations of scientists. Last week, we hosted “Reaching the Peak,” our second annual Early Career Summit, featured a variety of panelists, speakers, and workshop leaders who spoke to attendees on topics ranging from science startups to civic engagement. Read highlights from the Summit.

Upcoming Alliance Discussion: Join us on June 29 at 2 p.m. ET for a discussion with Lauren Bloch, Director of Health Policy & Regulatory Affairs at Faegre Drinker. She will provide an update on ARPA-H legislation in Congress, as well as actions by the Administration to advance this new health innovation incubator. 

Stay well, stay safe, and stay connected.

Mary Woolley