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Vol. LXIV, No. 14
July 6, 2012
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‘Impact’ on Health, Economy in Focus
Director’s Advisory Committee Emphasizes Telling NIH’s Story

On the front page...

NIA director Dr. Richard Hodes at the AD Summit

At the recent ACD meeting, NIH principal deputy director Dr. Larry Tabak (l) and NIH director Dr. Francis Collins enjoy a light moment.

NIH is good for science and good for the economy. If those words were lyrics, everyone connected in any way to NIH ought to be singing them loudly and at every opportunity. That was the message at the 104th meeting of the advisory committee to the NIH director (ACD) on June 14. NIH director Dr. Francis Collins, cast throughout the meeting by several presenters as an agile lead singer, indicated in opening remarks that the timing is perfect for such an NIH chorus.

“We’re seeing a gratifying acceleration in terms of scientific progress on many fronts,” including 15 papers published in 1 week on the Human Microbiome Project, he noted, opening the meeting.

“It’s truly a testament to the creativity, hard work, energy and the effective individual and team efforts of our remarkable biomedical research workforce…It is an absolute pleasure and privilege to be able to stand at the helm of this organization—the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world—and see how those resources are being put to remarkable use.”

Continued...

Collins also touched on recent important developments in Alzheimer’s disease research. “There has been a lot of exciting science happening in just the last year or so,” he said. “A lot of attention is coming toward this as people are beginning to notice that the society is aging and both the personal and economic costs of Alzheimer’s disease loom very large indeed.”

Still, Collins said, as exciting as all of the science news is, NIH enthusiasts also continue to face a sobering reality.

“It’s sometimes a bit challenging,” he told the assembly, “because we are in this paradoxical situation where we have the best opportunities for scientific progress and medical progress that we’ve ever had, but we are also historically in one of the most difficult situations that any people who’ve been here for a long time can remember in terms of resources.”

ACD member Dr. Reed Tuckson, executive vice president and chief of medical affairs for UnitedHealth Group, makes a point. NIH’ers (from l) Dr. Michael Gottesman, NIH deputy director for intramural research; Dr. Sally Rockey, NIH deputy director for extramural research; and Tabak listen as Collins (r) outlines economic realities facing the agency.
ACD member Dr. Reed Tuckson, executive vice president and chief of medical affairs for UnitedHealth Group, makes a point.


NIH’ers (from l) Dr. Michael Gottesman, NIH deputy director for intramural research; Dr. Sally Rockey, NIH deputy director for extramural research; and Tabak listen as Collins (r) outlines economic realities facing the agency.

Photos: Bill Branson

Collins called on Pat White, NIH associate director for legislative policy and analysis, to give a snapshot of the congressional and outreach front. White talked about the spring appropriations hearings, Collins’s then-upcoming testimony before the house health subcommittee and the fiscal year 2013 sequestration scenario.

Prompted by Collins, White also made note of how determined the director is to get NIH’s story heard by the right ears. Since January 2011, Collins has had face-to-face meetings with at least 150 members of Congress, “and that’s not including hearings or the impromptu meetings at airports Dr. Collins seems so good at,” White quipped.

He concluded by reiterating the most recent success of NIH research and its economic return. “We seem to be in the midst of a minor boomlet on Capitol Hill in terms of members’ receptivity to the message that Dr. Collins and others in the stakeholder community have been able to offer,” White said. “NIH continues to enjoy strong bipartisan support among members of Congress. The rub, of course, is that we are in an unprecedented fiscal and economic situation.”

Neil Shapiro, NIH associate director for budget, was next up. He gave the “big picture numbers of what NIH actually received from Congress for FY12,” which began with five continuing resolutions between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31. Three of the CRs lasted less than 1 week.

ACD members Dr. Shirley Tilghman (l) of Princeton University and Dr. Cato Laurencin of the Institute for Regenerative Engineering chat during a break.

ACD members Dr. Shirley Tilghman (l) of Princeton University and Dr. Cato Laurencin of the Institute for Regenerative Engineering chat during a break.

NIH “wound up with about $30.86 billion,” he said, adding that overall, the agency is bracing for a flat budget for 2013.

In response to a question about how the budget is keeping up with inflation, Collins said, “We lost purchasing power in 2012 and we’ve lost purchasing power in every single year since 2003. Altogether we’re down about 20 percent in terms of what our money can actually buy for research.”

The director also updated members on NIH’s recent talent searches.

Morehouse’s Dr. Gary Gibbons will join NIH as director of NHLBI in early August. A new search for an NIGMS director is under way; the quest for the first permanent NCATS director continues as well. Deborah Chew, who comes to NIH by way of the IRS, began as new director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management. Collins said we have reached the interview phase in the hunt for directors of the Center for Scientific Review, the Office of Research on Women’s Health and the Office of Disease Prevention.

Over the course of 1½ days, the ACD session also featured reports from work groups on four topics: the biomedical workforce, diversity in the biomedical research workforce, data and informatics and stem cells. Meeting documents, reports and webcast links are posted online at http://acd.od.nih.gov/meetings.htm#june2012.

Collins ended his opening remarks by demonstrating a new web site, Impact, which debuted June 14 and offers users details about the “economic and health impact of what we do.” By clicking on certain links, readers can find out exactly how much NIH invests in their individual communities. The URL is www.nih.gov/about/impact/.

As he has for the past few ACD gatherings, Collins again asked members for creative suggestions on ways “to expand efforts to get our story out there, because it’s a very compelling story—both in terms of what we do for human health and what we do for the economy.”


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