Promoting research on the Hill

Senator Introduces Legislation to Provide Mandatory Funding for Biomedical Research

Congressional Appropriations Committees currently are working to determine fiscal year 2015 funding levels for federal agencies. As part of this process, the Endocrine Society has a great opportunity to encourage representatives and senators to support our recommended funding level for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of $32 billion.

All members of Congress may submit funding requests on behalf of specific programs, including the NIH. The requests from members of Congress are a very important factor the Appropriations Committees take into consideration when making funding decisions. The Endocrine Society has developed an advocacy campaign to encourage members of Congress to support our request.

Take Action: Please visit the Society’s online advocacy center (www.endocrine.org/advocacy-and-outreach/ take-action) to email your senators and representatives today, asking them to submit appropriations requests in support of $32 billion for NIH. Sending an email to your elected officials only takes a few moments but makes a big difference at such a critical time.

Senators Want to Establish Regenerative Medicine Research Strategy

Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Mark S. Kirk (R-IL) introduced legislation to develop a national strategy to promote regenerative medicine research, including identifying priorities and funding sources.

The measure attempts to build on a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) report that recommends leveraging advances in stem cell research to develop cures for diabetes, heart disease, renal failure, and spinal cord injuries, among other afflictions.

About $4 billion of private sector spending on regenerative medicine has only yielded a handful of first-generation skin and cartilage substitutes, according to the HHS report. It notes government resources and coordination are necessary to create complex tissues and organs to replace those that are damaged or failing. Federal investment in the field from 1988 to 2001 is estimated to have totaled about $250 million.

A comprehensive strategy would, among other things, speed development of a regulatory system at the FDA to evaluate the safety and efficacy of new products, according to the report.

The bill would direct the Government Accountability Office to identify all ongoing federal efforts and require HHS to create a coordinating council to develop a strategy.

House and Senate Pass Pediatric Research Bill

Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have passed legislation that would authorize spending for NIH pediatric research grants by redirecting funds for national party conventions.

The bill (HR 2019 — Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act) now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature. It would authorize $126 million over 10 years for NIH pediatric research by redirecting federal funds from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund, which pays for both the Republican and Democratic nominating conventions.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., campaigned vigorously for the measure as part of an effort to rebrand Republicans. Some House Democrats, however, opposed the bill, claiming that it distracted from deeper, Republican-supported sequester cuts to NIH funding, which amounted to $1.55 billion last year.

Instead of the $126 million funding the party conventions, it would be directed to the Common Fund at the NIH, supporting research into childhood cancer, as well as other pediatric diseases and developmental disorders. Although the bill would authorize spending on pediatric research, the money still must be appropriated through an appropriations measure.

The measure is named after Gabriella Miller, a 10-year-old Leesburg, Va., girl who died of cancer in October. She had advocated for increased funding for research of childhood cancers in multiple videos that went viral before her death.

The Endocrine Society has long held a position recognizing the enormous potential of stem cell research and the need for funding (www.endocrine.org/stemcell).

NHLBI Seeks Input on Strategies to Enhance Early-Stage Faculty Diversity

On March 11, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) issued a Request for Information (RFI) soliciting input on “strategies to strengthen the research
and training environment to enhance early-stage faculty diversity at diversity-focused institutions (DFIs).” The NIH is committed to enhancing the diversity of the biomedical workforce and recognizes that a diverse workforce is critical to advancing biomedical research. The RFI is focused on research topics of specific interest to NHLBI; however, any strategies and training programs implemented by NHLBI could be of interest to the broader research community.

The Endocrine Society provides input to the NIH to assist in the development of workforce diversity initiatives. Also, the Society advocates for ethnic and cultural diversity in the field of endocrinology through the activities of the Minority Affairs Committee.

Take Action: If you have interest or expertise in career development for underrepresented minorities in biomedical science, please respond to the RFI by April 28 at MailboxDiversityRFI@nih.gov.

Durbin Introduces Legislation to Provide Mandatory Funding for Biomedical Research

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced legislation last week to create a trust fund to support a mandatory federal funding stream for biomedical research. The Endocrine Society endorsed the bill, called the American Cures Act (www.endocrine.org/americancures).

The bill would create a trust fund to provide additional resources for the NIH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Defense Health Program, and Veterans Medical & Prosthetics Research Program. Th e bill would increase funding annually for each agency and program at a rate of 5%.

The bill’s introduction also shows how influential the Society’s grassroots advocacy efforts can be. When Society President Teresa K. Woodruff, PhD, visited Sen. Durbin’s office last fall, they discussed the importance of biomedical research funding and the crucial role it plays in the health and well-being of all Americans. During the conversation, Durbin noted the funding should be mandatory, not discretionary.

“We appreciate Sen. Durbin’s continued leadership in championing for biomedical research,” Woodruff said. Sen. Durbin has been selected to receive the Society’s Distinguished Legislator Award for his work in this arena.

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