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.

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NWABR Urges Congress to Preserve Biomedical Research Funding

Sequestration could cost WA at least $70 million in grant funding

Now that the election is finally over, it’s easy to be distracted from the ongoing work of the current congress, and the looming threat that budget sequestration poses to the biomedical research industry. The Budget Control Act of 2011 requires that across-the-board cuts to be applied to a large portion of the federal budget on January 2, 2013, unless Congress reverses it. For domestic programs, around $39 billion in cuts would be applied to “discretionary” programs, which include the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).  According to a United for Medical Research report, if NIH funding is cut by 7.8% as part of budget sequestration, the state of Washington will be hit especially hard, with a loss of 1,184 jobs and $72.2 million in grants supported by this funding. And that is just the beginning.

This week, members of Research!America, a nonprofit advocacy alliance, are headed to Capitol Hill to make the case that sequestration is harmful not just for biomedical research, but also for our economy. As part of their Save Research campaign, NWABR was proud to sign a letter urging congressional leaders to reject any deficit reduction proposals that would cut research funding or hinder incentives that support biomedical innovation.

The full letter is posted below. Please take a moment to reach out to your congressional delegation and ask them to preserve funding that will help combat disease and spur private sector innovation in the Northwest and beyond.

Dear Mr. Reid, Mr. McConnell, Mr. Boehner, and Ms. Pelosi:

As advocates for biomedical and health research, we are writing to urge you to refrain from deploying deficit reduction strategies, like sequestration, that would slow medical progress.

Our nation leads the world in biomedical and health research, a function of public sector support and private sector ingenuity. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is unrivaled in spurring the basic discovery that lays the path for private sector innovation. Peer-reviewed NIH funding reaches all 50 states and congressional districts, spurring discovery at universities, hospitals, small businesses, and independent research institutes. In fact, NIH-supported research has:

  • Supported nearly 500,000 jobs in 2011 in every state
  • Generated $62 billion in economic activity in 2011
  • Helped increase life expectancy from 47 years in 1900 to 78 years in 2009

But this is not just about NIH.  The National Science Foundation (NSF), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) all provide a positive return on investment to our nation, protecting American lives and promoting American prosperity.

  • NSF’s grant portfolio is designed to identify and pursue the best scientific opportunities across the spectrum  of scientific disciplines, including biomedical research.
  • FDA is a key conduit between medical discovery and medical progress, laying the path for safe and effective  medical products to reach the marketplace.
  • CDC conducts and supports the public health research needed to contain disease outbreaks, promote wellness, and in other ways provide basic supports for a safe and healthy society; and
  • AHRQ combats entrenched and insidious problems in our nation’s health care system – like preventable medical errors and needless administrative red tape — that take lives and inflate the cost of taxpayer funded health programs and private insurance alike.

Disinvesting from biomedical and health research – and the infrastructure and expertise needed to conduct it – would contravene the goal of deficit reduction. This research is one of the fundamental underpinnings of our economy, a reality well understood by other nations, which are ramping up their investment and building out their research infrastructure.  Research is a catalyst that creates businesses large and small, and generates jobs in research, manufacturing, distribution, exports, health care and a host of other sectors. Those businesses and jobs supply federal revenue needed to reduce the deficit.

In addition, research can help stem runaway federal healthcare spending, which is driving our deficit. While new treatments may require additional cost at the outset, research has shown the offsetting effects of reduced hospitalizations, fewer visits to providers, reduced home care, a reduction in the Social Security disability roles, and improved productivity.  As you well know, the cost of treating diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other diseases are exploding. There is no high-impact alternative to research as a means of addressing this crisis.

When it comes to the fiscal health of our nation, biomedical and health research are part of the solution, not part of the problem.  Whether it is appropriations policy or entitlement and tax reform, we urge you to discard any proposal that cuts funding or mutes incentives for public- and private-sector supported medical innovation.   Compassion and pragmatism intersect in the decision to do so.

Thank you for your consideration.

Photos from our 2011 Bio-ITEST Teacher Reunion at ISB

NWABR 2011 Bio-ITEST Teachers' Reunion at ISBWe recently enjoyed a reunion of teachers participating in our Bioinformatics, “Bio-ITEST” program — short for Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). more about Bio-ITEST

The three-year NSF grant provides funding for education outreach programs that help secondary school teachers and their students learn about how information technology is used in biological research. Major collaborators include Digital World Biology, EdLab Group, and Shoreline Community College.

Teachers Said about Bio-ITEST at NWABR

“At the end of this course, I feel like I could create my own lesson if I needed to.”

“This was an excellent professional development opportunity!  It brought an emerging field of life science to my classroom that was not there before.  I look forward to using this material for many years to come!”

“I enjoyed learning how to use the technology tools Cn3D, Jalview, and FinchTV. The Socratic seminar was excellent also and I now have an effective way to teach students about STEM careers.”

“Having specific activities in the curriculum that asked them to use Cn3D was much better than a simple demonstration of the program. The students really liked using Cn3D … A lot of my kids also downloaded it at home. They’d come in early to school.”

“To be honest, I didn’t even know what bioinformatics was when I signed up for the class, yet was able to implement the curriculum and teach my students the material the first time I tried it.”

Professional Development in Systems Biology

The reunion was generously hosted by the Institute for Systems Biology (an NWABR member) in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle, at the global headquarters they opened just this month, May 2011. Below photos of everyone at the reunion are a few photos of ISB’s new headquarters and neighborhood.

ISB also provided professional development for teachers with Education Program Coordinator Claudia Ludwig, using their systems biology module, Environmental Impacts on Gene Networks. All teachers who attended received the Environmental Impacts on Gene Networks kit to use in their classroom!

We began with a reception and discussion of teachers’ experiences with the Bio-ITEST program:

NWABR 2011 Bio-ITEST Teachers' Reunion at ISB

NWABR 2011 Bio-ITEST Teachers' Reunion at ISB

NWABR 2011 Bio-ITEST Teachers' Reunion at ISB

NWABR 2011 Bio-ITEST Teachers' Reunion at ISB

NWABR 2011 Bio-ITEST Teachers' Reunion at ISB

Then, Education Program Coordinator Claudia Ludwig presented ISB’s systems biology module, Environmental Impacts on Gene Networks:

NWABR 2011 Bio-ITEST Teachers' Reunion at ISB

NWABR 2011 Bio-ITEST Teachers' Reunion at ISB

and teachers received the Environmental Impacts on Gene Networks kit to use in their classroom!

NWABR 2011 Bio-ITEST Teachers' Reunion at ISB

The new ISB global headquarters are beautiful, of course. Here are a few snaps of  ISB and the neighborhood:

NWABR 2011 Bio-ITEST Teachers' Reunion at ISB

NWABR 2011 Bio-ITEST Teachers' Reunion at ISB

NWABR 2011 Bio-ITEST Teachers' Reunion at ISB

Brian Glanz from NWABR, reflected in a hallway at ISB.

NWABR 2011 Bio-ITEST Teachers' Reunion at ISB

Not ISB -- Across the street from ISB in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle

NWABR 2011 Bio-ITEST Teachers' Reunion at ISB

ISB lab coats hang inside a window, and Seattle rain keeps outdoor table tennis interesting.

blogged by Brian Glanz for NWABR

blogged by Brian Glanz for NWABR

The Bio-ITEST program at NWABR is made possible by an Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers grant award from the National Science Foundation, DRL-0833779. 

Please reuse and remix! We share with a Creative Commons Attribution License.