Home » Mary Woolley's Weekly Letter » Reliance on science

Reliance on science

Dear Research Advocate,

Jumping right in:

Funding, Current and Future: Democratic Leaders in the House are focusing on the Moving Forward Framework, an infrastructure investment blueprint they originally released in January 2020, as the foundation for a fourth, $2 trillion supplemental. As it stands, both House Republicans and the Senate seem reluctant to pass another supplemental; nonetheless, the prospects for an infrastructure-focused stimulus are strong.

We have heard that Congress and the administration may opt to roll FY21 funding into the aforementioned infrastructure supplemental rather than go the well-worn (and progress-stifling) “Continuing Resolution” route. While at this stage the odds remain small, we are following this closely.

As the American Heart Association’s Emily Holubowich noted during our alliance member call earlier this week, FY21 appropriations hearings and mark-ups are on hold. However, the subcommittees are continuing to collect public testimony (here is our FDA testimony.) Supplemental funding is crucial, but one-time, emergency funding does not replace and must not supplant the annual appropriations needed to combat the many ills that take lives.

Check out this chart for NIH, FDA, CDC, NSF, and AHRQ funding trends, and look for FY21 advocacy opportunities in future letters!

Regarding existing grants: We’ve received and shared with NIH a number of questions about the mechanics of repurposing existing grant dollars for use in COVID-19-related research. On Tuesday, NIH issued a notice about the expedited process.

Evidence, evidence, evidence: Also on our alliance member call on Monday, Rear Admiral Erica Schwartz, Deputy Surgeon General at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), spoke to listeners about frontline COVID-19 testing and protecting our first responders. RADM Schwartz repeatedly stressed the importance of evidence and urged us all to help with rumor control. The CDC also has a  Stop the Spread of Rumors webpage.

The Science Philanthropy Alliance is mobilizing funding related to COVID-19 by compiling private funding opportunities on their COVID-19 Resource Hub. Fundable opportunities include research in basic and translational science, as well as other critically needed science-related funding. Interested private funders should email bmona@sciphil.org.

Public-Private Partnerships at work: Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has announced a lead vaccine candidate moving on an accelerated timeline toward Phase 1 human clinical trials as well as a partnership with Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to rapidly scale J&J’s manufacturing capacity with the goal of developing a worldwide supply of a COVID-19 vaccine. The Milken Institute’s Treatment and Vaccine Tracker is a terrific source of information about efforts like these. We are seeing unprecedented speed of collaboration that, by removing barriers and changing attitudes toward partnerships, could well be the harbinger of faster medical progress in the future.

Learning from Leaders: If your organization is a Research!America alliance member, please join us on Tuesday, April 7, 2020 at 3 p.m. ET, during National Public Health Week, for an alliance member call with Research!America board member, Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association (APHA). Dr. Benjamin will discuss and take questions on the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to combat it. Register here.

In case you missed it, here are the brief, cogent farewell remarks by outgoing NSF Director Dr. France A. Córdova. Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, the Director of OSTP, has been named to the additional post of Acting Director of the NSF.  Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan awaits Senate confirmation.

Stronger Together: Finally, many of you have asked how you can help during this challenging time. Our goal and commitment is to support you and your efforts as together we navigate these unchartered waters and to ensure our nation recovers from the pandemic fully attuned to what medical and public health progress means to our individual, and collective, future. Science is a first responder against COVID-19, and fighting for science — in partnership with each of you — is a privilege. Please consider making a donation to Research!America to help us expand our reach and amplify our impact.

Please stay well, stay safe, and stay connected.