Members of U.S. House and Senate Sign Letters Supporting NIH Funding

A total of 169 House members, including 29 Republicans, signed a March 25 letter supporting increased funding for NIH in FY 2016. The bi-partisan letter, organized by Reps. David McKinley (R-WV), Susan Davis (D-CA), Andre Carson (D-IN), and Peter King (R-NY), requests that NIH receive “at least $32 billion” in FY 2016. The House letter, which was sent to the chairs and ranking members of both the full House Appropriations Committee and its Labor-HHS subcommittee, states “it is critical that the United States make forward-thinking investments that promote medical breakthroughs as well as our international leadership in biomedical research.”

Similarly, a total of 54 senators, including 12 Republicans, signed a March 27 letter requesting the chairs and ranking members of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Labor-HHS subcommittee “maintain a strong commitment” to funding for NIH. The Senate letter, led by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Richard Burr (R-NC), does not mention a specific funding level for NIH but urges appropriators “to consider the tremendous benefits of a sustained investment in the NIH.”

House Appropriations Subcommittee Hears NIH Director Testimony

On Tuesday, March 3, NIH Director Francis Collins appeared before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education, and Related Agencies to discuss details of the agency’s FY 2016 funding request. He was accompanied by National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci and other institute directors.

A webcast of the hearing may be found at the subcommittee’s website and Dr. Collins’ written testimony is available here.

Harold Varmus to Step Down as Head of NIH’s National Cancer Institute

Dr. Harold Varmus announced today that he will be stepping down as the Director of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Cancer Institute (NCI) after nearly 5 years at the post.  He will leave NCI at the end of March.  Douglas Lowy, NIH’s Deputy Director and long-time NCI intramural researcher, will become acting director.

Varmus, who won the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, served as NIH’s director from 1993-1999 and returned in 2010 to oversee NCI’s work.  He plans to return to New York City to continue research into cancer care.

To read more news about Dr. Varmus and his resignation, please click here.  You can also find Varmus’ letter to NCI staff here.  NIH’s press release can be read here.

Scientific Societies Support NIH Nonhuman Primate Research

The nation’s largest primatological scientific society, the American Society of Primalogists (ASP), has made a strong statement in support of the scientist and research under attack by PETA.  The January 21 letter from the ASP Board of Directors to Rep. Lucille Roybal Allard (D-CA) and the NIH Director can be found at ASP’s website.  The American Psychological Association (APA), the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the U. S., also expressed their strong support for the targeted psychology researcher and his work to interested members of Congress and the NIH.  The APA Science Directorate statement is available online along with their January 21 letter. Speaking of Research subsequently posted NIH’s defense, the scientific society letters of support and their own comments about the necessity of responsible nonhuman primate research.

Regrettably, PETA is not listening.  Despite NIH’s transparent review of the subject research with clear explanation of its purpose and benefits, and respected scientists’ support for it, PETA went ahead with its January 27 “briefing” and vegan lunch on Capitol Hill to which congressional staff were invited.  Approximately 40 people attended, including PETA and other animal rights organization members; staff from the offices of December 22 letter writers; and other congressional staff, some of whom were curious to see how PETA would conduct itself.  The event was sponsored by Rep. Roybal-Allard, who made a statement (written copy unavailable).  The only other speakers were PETA representatives:  actor James Cromwell, University of New Mexico professor emeritus John Gluck, College of William and Mary anthropology professor Barbara King and neuroscientist Kathleen Roe from PETA’s laboratory investigation division.   No mention was made by speakers of NIH’s review of the work and official response.  According to Nature’s complete report of the event, despite NIH and scientific community support for the research involved, neither Rep. Roybal-Allard nor PETA are satisfied and intend to continue pursuing the issue.  The only other media coverage of PETA’s briefing to be found was a National Public Radio (NPR) blog posting by speaker Barbara King, who seemed to confuse this staff lunch briefing with a congressional hearing on the record.

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