Since I was a boy – and that was a long, long time ago – the greatness of this nation’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) was a given fact. Over many decades, much of the medical research funding that led to increases in knowledge and advancement came out of NIH. Founded in 1887, they built a system that worked.It is a system that is now being given to other nations.
On April 26, as a member of the American Thoracic Society’s Research Advocacy Committee (RAC), I participated in visits to the offices of ten Members of Congress.Here’s the good news. As we visited Senate and House offices representing Maryland, North Carolina and Louisiana, virtually all said that they had received calls that day about PHA’s Bill, the Tom Lantos Research and Education Act. (April 26 was also PHA’s National Call-in to Congress Day…our members were effective, as always.)
Now the bad news.
A key talking point for our visits was asking Congress to support NIH funding.
As we made our visits, a researcher who I spent the day with put it best.
She pointed out to Congressional staff that NIH is the world’s leader in groundbreaking biomedical research for the prevention, treatment and cure of diseases. Yet, due to eroded funding, NIH is able to fund about 10% of highly meritorious scientific research. That number used to be over 30%.
She went on to explain what that means in real terms…
“Young U.S. doctors are no longer coming into the field. When 10% of grants are funded and the competition is among the brightest minds in the world, even if a researcher gets their first five year grant, it’s not likely they will be able to get a second grant to allow them to stay in the field. Young researchers understand this. After I got my current grant and advertised to staff my project, all the applicants were from China and India, not one was from the U.S. They will take knowledge from here and go home and the U.S. will be poorer for it.”
Listening to her, I was reminded of an experience I had several years ago, flying back from Chinese and Taiwanese PH association meetings. About an hour into the flight, I started talking to the passenger next to me. When he heard that I was from Maryland, he said, “I used to live there, in Bethesda. I used to work at NIH”. When I asked him what brought him back to Taiwan, he said, “Well, I’m a researcher in oncology. The research money has dried up in the U.S. Research money is flowing in Asia”. That was in 2007. The situation is a lot worse today.
Well, that’s the story…here’s the American Thoracic Society’s call to action…
ATS’s Research Advisory Committee recently wrote a paper titled, The Case for Increased Funding for Research in Pulmonary and Critical Care.
The Abstract appears onthe ATS website , prior to print publication, opening with these words:
“The current economic and political climate places future funding of the NIH and other federal biomedical research programs in jeopardy. This Perspective seeks to arm the diverse membership of the ATS with the information necessary to understand and articulate the value of biomedical research in their respective communities.”
ATS has asked PHA and other organizations to help circulate the paper. So that you can have full access to it, we have placed a copy on the PHA website. I encourage you to read, , The Case for Increased Funding for Research in Pulmonaryand Critical Care.
It is compelling. It is important. It is a call to action we need to heed before it is too late.