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Portrait of a Leader

On Tuesday, I attended the unveiling of former NIH Director Francis Collins’ portrait on the NIH campus. Serving as Director under three Presidents, Dr. Collins fostered bipartisan support for the Institutes (the importance of bipartisanship is underscored in this graphic of the names of buildings on the main NIH campus), contributed directly to and shepherded revolutionary medical progress, and played a crucial leadership role in our nation’s response to the COVID pandemic. And that’s barely the CliffsNotes version of his profoundly positive, enduringly impactful tenure. Dr. Collins received Research!America’s John Edward Porter Legacy Award, generously supported by Ann Lurie, in 2022. We are forever grateful for who he is and what he does for us all.

On the Hill: Another NIH item that is a bit more challenging to navigate: on Friday, June 14, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), who chairs the House Energy & Commerce Committee, released a report and framework recommending significant changes in the structure and operations of the NIH. Her press release on the framework links to a commentary in STAT that she and Labor-HHS Appropriations Chair Robert Aderholt (R-AL) authored that sets the stage for the reform framework.  

It is important to recognize that the patient and research community’s response to these developments – our willingness to engage, the approach we take to communicating concerns, insights, and ideas, and the nature and scope of the input we provide – could bear significantly on NIH funding in FY25 and NIH overall going forward.  

We are hosting an off-the-record, alliance member-only Zoom meeting on Monday, June 24, at noon ET to discuss this development as well as the stakeholder-informed NIH report Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA) issued in May. If you are with an organization that is currently a Research!America alliance member or your organization is in the process of joining the alliance, you can register and we will send you a calendar invite with a Zoom link. If you are interested in learning more about membership, please don’t hesitate to contact me or Kristen Furlong and we’ll set up a quick call.

More on NIH: The Institutes are seeking input on a draft Public Access Policy, along with two related guidances. This RFI is the latest phase of a multi-year process to expand access to peer-reviewed studies without reducing the pipeline of those studies. Comments on the latest draft are due by Aug. 19.

The Art of Science Communication: After three highly attended Early Career Summit sessions, next week’s session is the last one this year. It will focus on the art (and science) of science communication, a vital skill for early career researchers. This session will be held Wednesday, June 26, from noon to 1:15 p.m. ET. Secure your spot today.

One Stop Shop for Bayh-Dole Resources: We have two new resources for our members on the landmark, bipartisan “Bayh-Dole” Act and the significance of the technology transfer system it established. It may sound arcane, but this 1980 law has spurred medical progress that has benefited society. As you may know, there are pending proposals that would essentially require the NIH to police pricing of products developed by federally-funded research. While well-intentioned as a means of addressing the challenge of high costs of treatments, we believe those proposals could stifle innovation. Check out our new webpage and a one-pager that helps explain the issue at hand. 

ICYMI: Dr. Bruce Tromberg, Director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) addressed an alliance discussion earlier today on the Institute’s role in advancing the use of technology to confront a host of health threats, including long COVID and cancer. Providing concrete examples in an accessible manner, regardless of how tech savvy one is, Dr. Tromberg did an extraordinary job conveying the enormous impact and promise of medical technology. Whether to learn about NBIB’s role or learn from a champion communicator, watch (or re-watch) the recording of this conversation now.