Funding for State Tobacco Prevention Programs at Lowest Level Since Tobacco Settlement

According to a report recently released by a coalition of public health organizations, states in the U.S. have decreased funding for programs to reduce tobacco use to the lowest level since 1999, when they first received tobacco settlement funds [1].

The coalition includes organizations such as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Since the November 1998 multi-state tobacco settlement, these organizations have issued annual reports assessing whether states are keeping their promise to use a significant portion of their settlement funds to address the enormous public health problems posed by tobacco use in the United States.

Map of state funding for tobacco prevention

Recovery Act Drives Record Number of NIH Grant Applications

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) was signed into law by President Obama on February 17th, 2009. It included significant support for biomedical research. As part of the Recovery Act, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) designated at least $200 million for a new initiative in fiscal year 2009 – 2010 called the NIH Challenge Grants in Health and Science Research (RC1). The initiative is designed to fund approximately 200 grants. Earlier this week, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced that the NIH has received approximately 20,000 Challenge Grant applications through the Recovery Act [1].

scientists-under-the-microscope

By way of comparison, the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) reviewed 27,360 Research Project Grants (R01s) and 9,483 Exploratory/Developmental Research Grants (R21s) for the entire year of 2008 [2]. Over the next few months, the CSR will check the submitted Challenge Grant applications for compliance and then review them in a two-phase process. Reviewers with expertise in the specific Challenge Areas (listed below) will do the first phase reviews, followed by a study section comprised of researchers who will focus on each application’s overall significance and impact. The earliest anticipated start date for those grants funded is September 30th, 2009.

Biomedical Research Rock Stars

A new public service campaign called the Rock Stars of Science (ROCK S.O.S.) features eleven of America’s leading biomedical research scientists appearing alongside rock stars such as Joe Perry, Sheryl Crow, will.i.am, Seal and Josh Groban. The campaign is designed to increase public awareness of the researchers and their work while showcasing the need for increased science funding. Although biomedical research received additional funding earlier this year through the economic stimulus, continued investment is critical for the development of future advances. Indeed, just last year a report writing by a consortium of seven institutions warned that the flat funding of biomedical research was a threat to America’s health.

rock-stars-of-science

The innovative campaign to bring attention to research is the brainchild of Meryl Comer, president of the Geoffrey Beene Gives Back Alzheimer’s Initiative, a philanthropic wing of the Geoffrey Beene menswear label, which donates all its net profits to support medical and educational research and outreach. Rock Stars of Science launched with a 6-page photo spread in the June issue of GQ Magazine, the popular men’s fashion magazine.

The print ad campaign is supported by the website www.rockstarsofscience.org, which will include behind-the-sciences videos and profile the scientists, their teams and research institutions. Readers will also be able to nominate their own Rock Stars of Science and sign a declaration calling for more funding in science research.

A New Era for Stem Cell Research and Scientific Integrity

Before a packed East Room audience yesterday, President Obama signed an executive order reversing the Bush administration’s restrictions on federal funding of research that involves human embryonic stem cells. The long-expected change in policy will help U.S. researchers compete with other nations in stem cell research. Indeed, United Kingdom stem cell scientists are already voicing concerns that the U.K. may lose its place to the U.S. as the world leader of stem cell research [1].

U.S. Encourages Evidence-based Medicine in Economic Stimulus

Last week, I implored you to urge your congressional members to Support Biomedical Research in the Economic Stimulus Package. The message was clearly received as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which President Obama signed today, includes $10 billion USD for biomedical research into cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease. The stimulus bill also includes significant support for updating U.S. healthcare systems and over a billion dollars for evidence-based medicine research.