Home » Mary Woolley's Weekly Letter » Progress on the Hill

Progress on the Hill

Dear Research Advocate,

The news this week about OSTP Director Eric Lander’s inexcusable behavior is dismaying – there is no excuse for demeaning and disrespecting others. As we stressed in conversations with media (Bloomberg, Science, STAT News): Lander’s departure must not slow the momentum behind several Administration-led initiatives with lifesaving potential and bipartisan support. ARPA-H and the Cancer Moonshot come immediately to mind.

Progress on the Hill: There are several indicators of momentum on Capitol Hill. As announced Wednesday, House and Senate appropriators reached agreement on the outline of an FY22 omnibus appropriations package. We urge the House and Senate to move quickly to enact appropriations for the remainder of the fiscal year. (Read our statement.)

The House, on Tuesday, passed the America COMPETES Act (H.R.4521), a companion bill to USICA, passed by the Senate in June 2021. Both bills authorize significant funding for NSF to support much-needed research. The sooner congressional leaders appoint conferees to work out differences between the two bills, the sooner they can send it to President Biden for his signature.

Another important piece of unfinished business is the confirmation of Robert Califf, MD, to lead FDA. Earlier today, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced a vote on Dr. Califf’s nomination. We will know next week whether the Senate will confirm Dr. Califf as FDA Commissioner. Research!America, the American Heart Association, and Friends of Cancer Research sent a letter to all Senators on Friday reiterating our support for Dr. Califf. Take a moment today to call or email your Senators to help ensure they vote for this extraordinary leader.

Investment Report: Our new report, U.S. Investments in Medical and Health R&D 2016-2020, shows that U.S. public and private investment in medical and health R&D grew by 11.1% from 2019 to 2020, reaching $245.1 billion. The private sector continues to be our nation’s largest investor in medical and health R&D, accounting for 66% of U.S. spending, followed by the federal government at just over 25%. Even with the addition of supplemental federal funding for COVID-19 interventions, U.S. medical and health R&D spending amounted to less than 6 cents of every health care dollar on R&D. Read our press release.

The report also breaks out the medical and health R&D expenditures of various government agencies. Super Bowl LVI this weekend is expected to generate ad revenue of more than $500 million – similar to the 2020 spending estimate for “BARDA,” the federal hub for incentivizing the development of pandemic-related and other biothreat countermeasures. We’re all for Super Bowl commercials, but the amount of money involved is a reminder of our nation’s overall wealth – we can and must do more to invest in preparing for future pandemics and other health threats.

ARPA-H Hearing: The House E&C Subcommittee on Health held a hearing this week to discuss ARPA-H. As discussed in previous letters, Research!America has been deeply engaged in the development of this initiative, a breakthrough medical innovation incubator modeled after DARPA. The House heard from key voices involved with the legislation, including Research!America Emeritus Board Member Dr. Keith R. Yamamoto, Vice Chancellor for Science Policy and Strategy at UCSF (read his compelling testimony).

Advocate: ARPA-H is a bold idea, one our nation urgently needs. Read our remarks from an Administration listening session on ARPA-H and use this editable email to raise awareness with your representatives in Congress about the ARPA-H concept.

ICYMI: Earlier today we held a special discussion with Neal F. Lane, PhD, a Senior Fellow at Rice University’s Baker Center, a former NSF and OSTP director, and a leader who has been extraordinarily influential in sounding the alarm on our nation’s faltering S&T leadership. Watch this timely and fast-moving program.

Dr. Lane will be honored at our 2022 Advocacy Awards; he will receive the Herbert Pardes Family Award for National Leadership in Advocacy for Research.

Join the Advocacy Awards: Registration is open for our 2022 Research!America Advocacy Awards. Join us at 4 p.m. ET on March 16 to honor individuals and organizations whose leadership has advanced our nation’s commitment to medical, health, and scientific research. The virtual awards program is free and open to all. Contact Katie Goode if you would like to become a sponsor.

Recent Member-Only Meeting: Last week we heard from Stefano Bertuzzi, PhD, MPH, CEO of the American Society for Microbiology, on the topic of gain of function research of concern and other pandemic-related topics. Member-only meetings like this are one of the many benefits of joining the Research!America alliance. Contact Anna Platt to learn more, sign on, and help increase federal funding for life-saving research!

Upcoming Alliance Member Meeting: Join us on Thursday, February 17, at 1 p.m. ET for a conversation with Paul T. Kim, partner at Foley Hoag LLP, who will discuss the critical intersection of the FDA approval process and the CMS coverage process.

Stay well, stay safe, and stay connected.

Mary Woolley