Many of the 18,000 attendees at this year’s American Association for Cancer Research Conference in Washington, DC, attended the “Rally for Medical Research.” Nearly 200 partnering organizations were involved. Many believe this is the largest number of scientists in the medical research community to ever come together in such a public way to express support for the NIH. This unified call to action will raise awareness about the critical need for a sustained investment in the NIH to improve health, spur more progress, inspire more hope, and save more lives, according to rally organizers.
“Through our leading role in today’s ‘Rally for Medical Research’ we hope to convey a loud, clear message that this is time to invest–not to defund–science,” said American Society of Hematology President Janis L. Abkowitz, M.D., of the University of Washington in Seattle. “We need Congress to understand that medical research is a national priority and will continue working hard to urge our elected leaders to develop a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not involve further cuts to biomedical research.”
Brian Boucher, whose daughter was diagnosed with a unique type of acute lymphoblastic leukemia at 15-months old, took the podium and noted that if this had happened in 1962 his daughter probably would have died. But Boucher served as her donor for a bone marrow transplant at St. Jude’s Children’s Research and she is fine now. Her outcome was largely due to funded research that led to this type of medical treatment, he pointed out.
“Over the years better understanding of genes and cells have allowed revolutionary advances in medical research for patients like my daughter to take place,” he told the rally. “It’s critical that NIH research continues to be funded because it has an impact over multiple fields.”
Marc Trevor Tessier-Lavigne, Ph.D., is a neuroscientist who is president of The Rockefeller University in New York City, followed Boucher. He once served as the chief scientific officer at Genentech. He also sees the funding cuts to NIH research as destructive. But he added another perspective to the funding problem.
“Basic science is key to economic well-being and scientific advances,” said Dr. Tessier-Lavigne. “But funding cuts are also turning young people away from careers in science and this will have a tremendous impact on our ability to innovate in the future, which is one of America’s greatest strengths.”
According to Donna Arnett, Ph.D., president of the American Heart Association, the rally is intended to serve as a strong reminder to Congress that the health of the nation depends on medical research. “Unless we restore NIH funding now, the treatment or cure you or your family will desperately need in the future may never be discovered,” she said. “We will not give up this fight.”