Half of US adults 40 to 75 eligible for statins

A report in today’s Seattle Times suggests that cholesterol lowering statins will be in most of your futures.  Based on research from Duke University (which surveyed 4,000 people) it is now estimated that half of US adults between the ages of 40 to 75, and nearly all men over the age of 70 meet recently changed criteria for the use of statins. 

The guidelines for the use of statins were devised by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.  The Duke study estimates that half a million strokes and heart attacks over a ten year period could be prevented if the new guidelines were followed. 

There is some criticism of the new guidelines which favor the use of statins over other lifestyle changes (such as not smoking or working to reduce stress).

Ken Gordon

Executive Director

Community Conversation – 23andMe – What Can Your Genes Tell You

Last evening (Tuesday March 18, 2014) the Northwest Association for Biomedical Research (NWABR) hosted a Community Conversation that explored the issues around Direct-To-Consumer Genetic Testing.

These Community Conversations are a partnership between NWABR and the Institute for Translational Health Sciences at the University of Washington.  The purpose of these Community Conversations is to enable members of the public to become engaged with emerging issues in the bioscience realm.  Our hope is that an engaged public will be better placed to think through complex scientific and ethical issues, make informed contributions, build relations with experts in the field – and most importantly – provide those same experts with feedback from a community perspective on these issues.

At the Community Conversation hosted yesterday evening around 35 people gathered to discuss direct-to-consumer genetic testing services.  The company 23andMe has been providing this service to customers and approximately 650,000 people have both had their DNA tested and agreed to share their records to help build a DNA database that will, hopefully, in the future improve the accuracy of the findings that 23andMe can report to their customers.

The FDA has asked 23andMe to stop marketing the health benefits of this testing service and to no longer provide direct findings to customers about any health implications arising from the genetic tests that they perform.  The FDA is concerned that a consumer may misinterpret the results that they receive from 23andMe and subsequently make poorly informed health care decisions.

Yesterday’s Community Conversation was held at Kakao Chocolate + Coffee in Westlake.  The Conversation was facilitated by Sarah Nelson and Lorelei Walker, who are MPH and PhD candidates in Public Health Genetics at the University of Washington.  Following the presentations from Ms. Nelson and Ms. Walker the participants had a wide ranging discussion that touched on: privacy, trust, potential commercializing of DNA, the need for access to this information. the need for help in interpreting the information, resistance from some members of the medical community, the current lack of diversity in the 23andMe database, support for and frustration with the FDA and much more.

As we the staff at NWABR watched the conversation progress we were amazed that such a great group had come out on a Tuesday evening, given up their own time, and dived so eagerly into this complex area.  We were again reminded of just how rich discussions can be when these two sometimes diverse worlds come together.

Regards

Ken Gordon

Executive Director

Northwest Association for Biomedical Research

Registration Opens for NWABR’s Camp BIOmed, a new summer camp for high school students

Students entering 9th-12th grade can now sign-up for three of the four exciting summer camp sessions organized by Northwest Association for Biomedical Research (NWABR).  Each of the four camp tracks for Camp BIOmed are a week long and will be repeated for seven weeks, starting July 7 through August 23.

Students and parents can register and find additional information about the programs at www.nwabr.org/campbiomed.

The four summer camp programs focus on various topics relating to biomedical research and its ethical conduct, which include:

Bioethics thru Gaming
Protein Foldit! Be a Citizen Scientist
Hive Bio (Do it Yourself) Lab with Neuroscience
Lab Intensive Experience

Throughout the summer camps, students will take part in hands-on experiments at local biomedical businesses and research facilities, track their own findings as part of these experiments in lab journals, and tour local Seattle biomedical organizations. Each week of the summer camp will conclude with a culminating expo where campers will share all group and individual projects and contributions.

Early bird registration is open now for members for $450-$525 depending on track.  Non-members can begin registering on January 29 by signing up as a member ($25, plus the camp fee).  The price for camp for all will increase after March 31 by $90 for all tracks.  Financial assistance for partial camperships are available for students to attend the program.  The financial assistance application is available in the camp registration at http://www.nwabr.org/campbiomed

To register for Camp BIOmed check out www.nwabr.org/campbiomed

For more information, contact camp@nwabr.org

About NWABR

NWABRs mission is to promote the understanding of biomedical research and its ethical conduct. NWABR is dedicated to strengthening public trust in biomedical research, through education and dialogue. Through our diverse membership of academic organizations, biotech industry, non-profit research institutes, health care, and voluntary health organizations, along with extensive education programs, we foster a shared commitment to the ethical conduct of research and ensure the vitality of the life sciences community.

NIH Science Education Programs at Risk

YESBioEsquare.jpg

Proposed Reorganization of STEM Programs Threatens Funding for Health and Biomedical Education

Click HERE for the photobook of programs that will be impacted by the proposed reorganization.

On April 10, 2013, the White House submitted a FY14 budget request to Congress that radically reorganizes federally-funded Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education (STEM) programs across multiple agencies, particularly the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and NASA.  In the proposal, 266 programs across 13 agencies would be consolidated into 122 programs. The budget proposal identifies the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education, and the Smithsonian as the primary agencies to organize and oversee future federally-funded STEM education efforts.

The following day, NIH held a conference call for all NIH grantees with funding for K-12 and informal science and health education projects. Dr. Larry Tabak, principal deputy director at NIH, announced that NIH is “pausing” funding for these programs. No new grants will be awarded. Non-competing renewals will be funded in FY 2013, but funding after that is uncertain. While increased coordination of STEM education across federal agencies is a laudable goal, several consequences of the proposed changes have profound implications for health and biomedical education in the US.  In particular, the elimination of the Office of Science Education at the National Institutes of Health and the Science Education Partnership Award  (SEPA) and similar science education programs at individual NIH institutes would threaten our national competitiveness, security, public health, and broader understanding of, and support for, science.

The NIH Office of Science Education (OSE) is scheduled to close at the end of September, 2013.  The OSE has had a tremendous impact on health science education through its many programs.  For example, OSE staff have distributed 450,000 Curriculum Supplements to approximately 100,000 educators across the U.S.  Their website receives over one million hits/year. If you are interested in receiving hard copies of their popular Curriculum Supplement series, please contact them at oseATscience.education.nih.gov.

The journal Science, in Wild Cards Remain After Proposed Reshuffle of STEM Education (April 19, 2013; vol 340, p. 258-259), notes the following:

Many science educators say that the proposed cuts would scrap effective programs just as the country needs to be doing more.  ‘”The SEPA program is the face of the NIH to the country,” says a grantee on one of the programs facing the chopping block. “It’s a vehicle for telling the public how NIH is translating science into practice,” says the grantee, who requested anonymity (p. 258).

The Co-STEM Committee at the Office of Science and Technology Policy is scheduled to release a strategic plan in mid-May with additional information.

The following link provides the complete list of programs under consideration to be paused/consolidated/eliminated:

Proposed STEM Education Reorganization Contained in the President’s FY14 Budget Request
Note especially the following list relative to health and biomedical education:

  • 30 Clinical Research Training Program HHS
  • 31 Curriculum Supplement Series HHS
  • 32 NIAID Science Education Awards HHS
  • 33 NINDS Diversity Research Education Grants in Neuroscience HHS
  • 34 NLM Institutional Grants for Research Training in Biomedical Informatics HHS
  • 35 OD Science Education Partnership Award HHS (SEPA)
  • 36 Office of Science Education K-12 Program HHS (NIH Office of Science Education)
  • 37 Public Health Traineeship HHS
  • 38 Science Education Drug Abuse Partnership Award HHS
  • 39 Short Term Educational Experiences for Research (STEER) in the Environmental health Sciences for Undergraduates and High School Students HHS

The following are points raised by the SEPA community in response to this development:

The Need for Health and Biomedical Science Education Programs Aimed at Grades K–12 and the Broader Public at the NIH

Health and biomedical sciences for grades K-12 are critical components of STEM education that help to ensure the nation’s capability to prevent disease and improve health. The proposed 2014 STEM education consolidation plan, however, eliminates K-12 and informal health and biomedical science education from its traditional place in the portfolio of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and, by default, from the national STEM education agenda. No other federal agency supports programs comparable to those that would be lost.

More than 65 NIH-funded, K-12 health and biomedical science education projects currently operate in 40 states. These include “in-person” programs for more than 82,500 K-12 students and 5,750 K-12 teachers each year, and online programs that reach more than 20 million K-12 students and educators annually. NIH-funded exhibitions at some of the nation’s largest museums and science centers reach millions more students, teachers and families. With emphasis on engaging underserved populations, K-12 educational initiatives supported by NIH create thoroughly evaluated, science-rich interactive exhibits, curriculum materials, teacher professional development programs, student and teacher research experiences, and out-of-school learning opportunities. Ongoing NIH-funded K-12 educational programs benefit the nation in the following ways.

  • Improve preparation for, and access to careers in medicine, healthcare, biotechnology and biomedical research, with a focus on students from under-represented groups.Address health disparities by increasing access to college and health professions careers for under-served students, who are more likely than their peers to practice in medically underserved areas.
  • Build public understanding and support of biomedical research and clinical trials through educational programs that emphasize the relationship between NIH discoveries and their translation into positive health outcomes.
  • Encourage and facilitate involvement of biomedical research scientists in K-12 STEM education, and engage the resources of colleges, universities, medical schools and science museums in supporting K-12 STEM education.
  • Promote health literacy and better decision-making to address preventable health problems among America’s youth, reduce the burdens of chronic illnesses and infectious diseases, and enable consumers to make sense of genetic and other newly available health information.
  • Increase students’ interest in STEM topics through personally relevant examples from health and biomedicine that are aligned with recommendations of the Next Generation Science Standards.
For more than two decades, NIH has invested in the development of human capital and a unique infrastructure that is meeting our nation’s K-12 health and biomedical science education needs. These investments have produced significant, demonstrable outcomes that would not have been possible otherwise. Current K-12 programs sponsored by NIH, including the Office of Science Education, employ rigorous, results-oriented and cost-effective approaches to tackle major national issues, as listed below.
  • Jobs: Healthcare and biomedical science are crucial elements of the economy. The US Department of Commerce estimates that healthcare accounts for $1.75 trillion in revenues and employs more than 14 million people (nine percent of the US workforce).
  • Provider Shortages: The nation faces an acute shortage of healthcare workers in all areas, and the problem is expected to grow. The American Association of Medical Colleges projects that there will be a shortage of more than 90,000 physicians—including 45,000 primary care physicians—by the end of the decade. About 55 million people already lack access to a physician.
  • Wellness and Disease Prevention: According to the Milken Institute, more than half of all Americans suffer from one or more chronic diseases, many of which are preventable. Healthcare spending is projected to reach almost 20% of the US gross domestic product by 2021. Racial and ethnic minorities suffer disproportionately from diseases such as cancer, diabetes and HIV/AIDS, but participate less frequently in programs that could help to reduce disparities.

Without K-12 health and biomedical science education initiatives, our nation will be unable to solve many of its most pressing workforce, economic and healthcare problems.

Download points above as a PDF: NIH-K12
Sources: Fixing the Doctor Shortage (AAMC) – Health Economic Fact Sheet – The Health and Medical Technology Industry in the United States  – Next Generation Science Standards – Milken Institute Center for Health Economics

Fig. 1. Distribution of 2012 Science Education Partnership Awards by State.
Nearly every state will be impacted by these changes.

SEPA MAP

Taking action:

Additional Resources
Please contact us at jchowningATnwabr.org with suggestions and corrections

Youth Ethics Summit: Science Saturday for Students

NWABR, University of Washington (UW) Department of Bioengineering, and UW Microfabrication Facility hosted 51 high school students (one made a special trip from Idaho) from 22 schools at the University of Washington on Saturday, March 2. Featuring laboratory tours, UW student showcase, liquid nitrogen ice cream, and breakout sessions on global health, artificial organs, computer science and nanotechnology, the day was full of hands-on activities and interactions with bioengineering students and professionals.

These are a few statements from our participants that demonstrate the impact of this day-long event:

“The demonstrations were the best, I thought, but the explanations taught me how everything ties together. The science is cool, the outfits were wacky and the whole thing was very well-done and enjoyable.”

“It showed me that I can incorporate my love for biology, genetics, and problem-solving into one field.”

“I loved [the Artificial Organs] breakout session. The need for bioengineering in the artificial organ area was not one that had previously occurred to me. I can see myself working in that field.”

“I am interested in medicine or sciences and this field works on technology and methods to improve health of people around the world.”

“I learned a lot and enjoyed every moment. It was highly interesting and involving. I am now more interested in bioengineering than I ever thought I’d be.”

BioEcollage

2013 NWABR Programs Are Looking for Motivated High School Students

RESEARCH FELLOWS
2-week summer program (June 21-July 3)

NWABR proudly announces that the application for the 2013 Student Research Fellows is now available. Student Research Fellows supports 10-12 students (especially those from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in science) in a 2-week paid summer fellowship. Students visit a broad variety of research institutions throughout the Seattle area, learn how new medical treatments are developed, and discuss ethical issues in biomedical research. Eligible students are those who will be high school sophomores or juniors in the 2013-2014 school year. Students will receive $350 upon completion of the summer program and $50 upon completion of the school year follow-up project. This program is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

YOUTH ETHICS SUMMIT: BIOENGINEERING (Saturday, March 2)

In addition, NWABR is now registering high school students for this year’s Youth Ethics Summit, which features a partnership with University of Washington’s Department of Bioengineering. Showcasing lab tours, hands-on activities, lunch, and interactive breakout sessions, the 2013 Youth Ethics Summit will be held at the William H Foege Building North at the University of Washington on Saturday, March 2. Space is limited to only 50 students, so please register early.

Please direct questions about the Students Research Fellows to Joan Griswold at jgriswold@nwabr.org.

Please email questions concerning the Youth Ethics Summit to Dr. Jenn Pang at jpang@nwabr.org.

CURE 2011 Research Fellow Jessica Andrade @ FHCRC

Falling Off the “Fiscal Cliff”: As Funding Cuts Loom, Americans Are Willing to Pay for Biomedical Research

As pundits project and partisans dig in on Capitol Hill, Americans remain committed to investing in biomedical research, and are even willing to spend more of their tax dollars to advance science in their communities. According to a new national public opinion poll commissioned by Research!America:

  • More than 50% say they would be willing to pay $1 more per week if the dollars would go to medical research – even in these tough fiscal times.
  • More than three-quarters (78%) say that it is important that the U.S. work to improve health globally through research and innovation.
  • Nearly 70% believe that the federal government should increase support for programs and policies that would increase the number of young Americans who pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
  • 68% say it’s important that the federal research and development tax credit is made permanent.

How might falling off the “fiscal cliff” affect biomedical research in Washington State? The biomedical research sector provides thousands of jobs in Washington: pharmaceutical (2,490); medical device (7,760); research, testing, and laboratories (15,088); and overall private sector (2,429,884).  Further reduction in NIH and NSF funding to biomedical research could affect this sector and reduce employment opportunities nation-wide, forcing job-seekers to relocate or potentially discourage students from pursuing scientific careers.

Current NIH funding has designated Seattle as the hub for comparative-effectiveness research in cancer. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Group Health Research Institute, and the University of Washington School of Public Health are leading projects in cancer genomics, cancer diagnostics, breast imaging, and cancer screening. Results from these projects will provide vital information in diagnosis, treating, and communicating information about cancer to medical professionals, patients and their families, and health insurance companies. The threatened reduction in funding could impact these critical programs and may delay evaluations of testing and treatments for cancer patients. Without continued biomedical research funding in Washington—and across the U.S.—we compromise our ability to evaluate cancer diagnostic tools, screening tests, treatments, and a balanced assessment of cost and benefit.

Time is running out on Capitol Hill. While it’s absolutely necessary to reduce the deficit, more spending cuts that hinder medical progress are harmful to public health, the economy, and global innovation. The Northwest is a national leader in biomedical research and innovation, and our representatives can still save thousands of jobs, and $70 million in grant funding in Washington alone. Reach out to our lawmakers today—before they adjourn for the holiday—and count yourself among the majority of Americans who take action to preserve and advance biomedical research funding.