skip navigation nih record
Vol. LXI, No. 21
October 16, 2009
cover

next story


'Scientist-in-Chief' Welcomed
President Obama Visits NIH to Tout ARRA Benefits

On the front page...

President Barack Obama spent about an hour at NIH on Sept. 30, touring a Clinical Research Center laboratory with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and getting updates on scientific research before delivering a 15-minute address to a packed Masur Auditorium. He congratulated NIH for getting the first $5 billion of a $10.4 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act appropriation out the door by the end of fiscal 2009.

Continued...


  President Barack Obama at NIH  
  President Barack Obama at NIH  

“I’m here to talk about our nation’s commitment to research,” Obama said. “The work you do is not easy. It takes a great deal of patience and persistence. But it holds incredible promise for the health of our people and the future of our nation and our world…Today we’re announcing that we’ve awarded $5 billion—that’s with a ‘b’—in grants through the Recovery Act to conduct cutting-edge research all across America, to unlock treatments to diseases that have long plagued humanity, to save and enrich the lives of people all over the world. This represents the single largest boost to biomedical research in history.”

Obama had been welcomed by NIH director Dr. Francis Collins, who noted, “We’re very grateful to have a President who values science, respects its independence and understands its huge potential for improving Americans’ lives.”

More than 12,000 Recovery Act grants were funded by the $5 billion, Collins said, adding, “more than 1,800 of the awardees have never previously held a major NIH grant. These grants will fund trailblazing research into treating and preventing many of our most harmful diseases, from cancer to heart disease to HIV/AIDS…this unprecedented NIH Recovery and Discovery program is not just doubling the recipe. We’re investigating new problems with powerful new tools and looking at old problems from entirely new perspectives…I am confident that millions of Americans alive today and millions more in future generations will live longer, healthier, more rewarding lives because of the grants we are announcing today.”

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (l) accompanies Collins and the President on a short tour of the CRC. Collins briefs Obama on current NIH science in the lab of NCI’s Dr. Marston Linehan (rear) as Sebelius looks on.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (l) accompanies Collins and the President on a short tour of the CRC. Collins briefs Obama on current NIH science in the lab of NCI’s Dr. Marston Linehan (rear) as Sebelius looks on.

Collins acknowledged the extraordinary effort NIH’ers put forth to use ARRA funds wisely. “None of this would have been possible without the hard work of thousands of dedicated NIH employees,” he said. “They identified areas of special scientific opportunity. They designed entirely new grant programs like the Challenge Grants and Grand Opportunity Grants. They wrote RFAs in record time. And the response was overwhelming. As just one example, we expected to receive about 5,000 Challenge Grant applications—we received more than 20,000. But the NIH scientific staff was exhilarated, not dismayed. They recruited 15,000 reviewers and instructed them to aim high in identifying the most innovative proposals. They counseled anxious applicants. And once the rigorous reviews were completed, NIH staff processed the awards in record time. I want to give a big shout out to all of you who contributed to this unprecedented success. You worked 24/7, giving up your weekends, postponing vacations, all in the cause of great science. Give yourselves a round of applause!”

Collins said the NIH workforce is “ready and anxious to help our Scientist-in-Chief, President Barack Obama.”

Obama acknowledged a number of special guests, including Sebelius, whom he said “always has a sense of fun and energy, and is just good to be around,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), in whose district NIH falls, and Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), whose efforts were key to NIH securing the ARRA appropriation and who received a tumultuous standing ovation when he was introduced. Also on hand were Dr. John Holdren, the President’s chief science advisor, former Rep. John Porter, a long-time advocate for NIH, and Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett.

Special guests on hand at the visit included (from l) Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA); Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Dr. John Holdren, the President’s chief science advisor.
Special guests on hand at the visit included (from l) Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA); Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Dr. John Holdren, the President’s chief science advisor.

Obama noted that “through the Recovery Act, the NIH is expanding the Cancer Genome Atlas, collecting more than 20,000 tissue samples to sequence the DNA of more than 20 types of cancer. And this has extraordinary potential to help us better understand and treat this disease. Cancer has touched the lives of all Americans, including my own family.”

He also said ARRA would “provide the largest-ever infusion of funding into autism research…And as I was taking a tour with Dr. Collins and [NIAID director] Dr. [Anthony] Fauci and others, just listening to the possibility of an HIV/AIDS vaccine, or hearing the latest treatments of cancer that allow people who previously only had to resort to the most violent types of radiation or chemotherapy, now being able to take pills and seeing extraordinary progress, it is something that is entirely inspiring.”

Secretary Sebelius (l) stayed on at NIH for a meeting with IC directors, including NIDA’s Dr. Nora Volkow (r) and NCI’s Dr. John Niederhuber (second from r). Seated next to Sebelius is Dr. Dora Hughes, her public health and science counselor.
Secretary Sebelius (l) stayed on at NIH for a meeting with IC directors, including NIDA’s Dr. Nora Volkow (r) and NCI’s Dr. John Niederhuber (second from r). Seated next to Sebelius is Dr. Dora Hughes, her public health and science counselor.
Obama also made a pitch for his health care reform effort, quoting President Franklin D. Roosevelt from an address FDR gave at the dedication of Bldg. 1 70 years ago: “‘Neither the American people, nor their government, intends to socialize medical practice any more than they plan to socialize industry’…FDR was being accused of a government takeover of health care. But he thought NIH was a pretty good idea.”

He concluded, “Here at the National Institutes of Health, and at universities and research institutions across this country, you are demonstrating our capacity not just as a nation but as human beings to harness our creativity and our ingenuity to save lives, to spare suffering—to build a better world for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren. That is our great promise…thank you for your extraordinary work.”

The President then greeted the entire front row of guests. Just before he left the room, a last blast of whooping applause ushered him out.

Secretary Sebelius and members of her staff remained at NIH for a meeting with institute and center directors who offered updates on such topics as HIV/AIDS, autism, obesity and comparative effective research. NIHRecord Icon

back to top of page