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Tribute to the Honorable John Edward Porter

Research!America mourns the loss of our long-serving chair, dear friend, and champion for the power of medical research to change lives, John Edward Porter, who died on June 3 at the age of 87.   

“John’s life was one of purpose and his legacy is large. He taught us all to live with dignity, resolve, kindness, and strength,” said Research!America CEO and President, Mary Woolley.    

John represented the 10th district of Illinois in the House of Representatives as a Republican for more than 20 years (1980-2001). Throughout his distinguished career, he cultivated strong relationships with presidents of both parties and worked across the aisle in his determination to advance our nation’s medical and health research enterprise.  

As chairman of the House Appropriation Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, John demonstrated unflagging and ultimately historic support for research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). John was the first lawmaker to call for the doubling of the NIH budget over five years in the 1990s. Through his passion and commitment, he made this goal a reality by building bridges across parties and grounding his advocacy in evidence.  

He earned the respect and admiration of federal officials, patient groups, scientists, and industry leaders. Harold Varmus, appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve as NIH Director during John’s tenure as Subcommittee chair, said that John “immersed himself in the detailed working of [our] agency while not losing sight of the big picture – namely the scientific mission to make discoveries and to apply our science to improvements in human health.”  

When John left Congress, he continued his efforts to make research for health a higher national priority, including as a member of Research!America’s Board. When he became Board chair in 2005, succeeding his friend “Mr. Health,” former Congressman Paul Rogers, John propelled the alliance’s mission forward by igniting a passion for research advocacy among scientists, patient advocates, industry partners, and the academic community alike.   

His deep commitment to funding medical research at the level of scientific opportunity was unmatched as he rallied support from fellow congressional leaders, philanthropists, journalists, and the science community. As John said, “you can change the image of things to come. But you can’t do it sitting on your hands…the science community should reach out to Congress and build bridges.”  

John not only served as a trusted advisor for the Research!America Alliance and our members, he inspired advocates, scientists, and science enthusiasts nationwide through his rousing speeches and compelling editorials.   

“From time to time unique and selfless individuals such as John Porter leave us with an immense legacy,” said Elias Zerhouni, who served as NIH Director under President George W. Bush. “I am particularly indebted to him for his steadfast support of the NIH during my tenure as well as his leadership of Research!America and the Foundation for NIH over the years.” 

At the dedication of the John Edward Porter Neuroscience Research Center in 2014, NIH Director Francis Collins said, “The legacy of John Porter’s leadership can be seen in this very building, in the new hope for patients across the country and around the world.” 

John Porter’s legacy as a champion for research is recognized worldwide and will long endure. It wasn’t just a matter of being in the right place at the right time; John’s achievements were the result of his dedicated leadership, hard work, integrity, and deep commitment to research. Research!America salutes John Edward Porter, for his love for family, friends and science, and service to our country.  

Contact Jenny Luray at 202-450-9920 or jluray@researchamerica.org or Erin Brown at 559-970-4625 or ebrown@researchamerica.org with press inquiries.