Debt Limit Vote Continues to Cloud FY12 Appropriations

The FY12 appropriations process continues to creep forward in the shadow of negotiations between the White House and congressional leaders over the debt limit and long-term deficit reduction. The Obama administration is sticking to August 2nd as the date by which a deal must be reached in order to avoid what would be the first ever U.S. default on its debt.

The administration is insistent on putting cuts to discretionary programs, entitlement reform, and taxes (particularly regarding corporate loopholes) all on the table. However, according to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), tax increases need to be removed from consideration because they can’t pass Congress. In a White House press conference today, President Obama stated that if revenue enhancements are not on the table, it will force major cuts in areas such as college student grants and medical research. Continue reading

NIDCR RFA on Acute to Chronic Pain Transition Reissued

Title: Collaborative Research on the Transition From Acute to Chronic Pain: New Models and Measures in Clinical and Preclinical Pain Research (R01)
Organization/Component: National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
Funding Opportunity Number: RFA-DE-12-003

Purpose: The overall goal of this FOA is to stimulate preclinical and clinical research that will accelerate our understanding of the biological and behavioral determinants driving the transition from acute pain to chronic pain disorders. An understanding of the mechanisms and risk factors that determine who will transition to a chronic pain state is necessary in order to intervene in this transition and to design new, effective treatments to resolve acute pain before it becomes chronic. The objectives of this FOA are to: 1) assemble research teams with expertise in basic and clinical pain research and related expertise outside the pain field that will provide novel, collaborative, multidisciplinary approaches to answer crucial questions about the transition from acute to chronic pain; 2) discover biological and behavioral mechanisms that drive the transition from an acute pain state to a chronic dysfunctional pain condition; 3) develop new clinical and preclinical models and measures of pain that will be essential to identify and characterize these mechanisms. Studies that involve considerable risk but with the potential for breakthroughs in the field are strongly encouraged.

Posted Date: June 29, 2011
Open Date: September 27, 2011
Closing Date: October 27, 2011, by 5pm local time of applicant organization
Scientific Merit Review: February/March 2012
Advisory Council Review: May 2012
Earliest Start Date: June 2012

Full Announcement

NLM Launches Tool Linking Patients to Health Information

The National Library of Medicine has launched a free tool, MedlinePlus Connect, that allows health organizations and health IT providers to offer consumers information about their specific conditions through the MedlinePlus website. The MedlinePlus website provides a trusted source of up-to-date health information in a form that is relatively easy for patients to understand. MedlinePlus covers a broad range of conditions.

The tool speaks to the goal of offering the public open access to the results of federally funded research, potentially without threatening the viability of peer-reviewed scientific journals that are largely utilized by the research community.

Biden Deficit Reduction Group Sets Target Date

Vice President Biden continues to lead a bipartisan working group charged with generating an agreement on deficit reduction that can gain enough votes in Congress to pass. There is pressure on the group to produce a plan quickly, as the House leadership has insisted on large decreases in federal spending prior to agreeing to raise the nation’s debt limit. According to the Treasury Department, the debt limit must be raised by early August to avoid what would be the first ever U.S. default.  While the administration insists that the debt limit must be raised and should be considered independently of a deficit reduction plan, the two remain very much intertwined, given the House position. The Biden led group has set July 1st as a date by which its work must conclude -whether or not a deal is reached.

The work of the Biden group has significant implications for federal agencies, such as NIH/NIDCR, both in the near and long-term. Any agreement that is reached will serve as a reference point for the remainder of the ongoing FY12 appropriations process, as well as for years to come. Federal agencies are now in the process of developing their FY13 budget requests. Any agreement reached by the Biden group will certainly be instructive to agencies in setting priorities and developing their budget requests going forward.

NIH Announces CTSA Awards

The National Institutes of Health announced that $200 million (over 5 years) will be awarded to five health research centers, as part of the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program. It is anticipated that the investment will help speed the transition of basic research findings into actual treatments. With the new awards, the CTSA consortium will expand into Kansas and Kentucky, and represent 60 institutions spread across 30 states and the District of Columbia.

Full Announcement

41 Senators Express Support for FY12 NIH Appropriations

Senators Casey (D-PA) and Burr (R-NC) were joined by 39 of their Senate colleagues in a letter to the chief appropriators in the chamber. The bipartisan letter expressed support for a strong fiscal year 2012 budget for NIH, despite ongoing efforts to make deep cuts to federal spending. According to the Casey-Burr letter, “If we are to improve the health of Americans and the quality of their lives, we must continue to invest in areas like biomedical research that have the potential to save money in the future, improve the lives of Americans, and offer an economic return for our Nation.

Senators signing-on to the NIH letter include: Akaka (D-HI), Begich (D-AK), Bingaman (D-NM), Blumenthal (D-CT), Boxer (D-CA), Scott Brown (D-MA), Burr (R-NC), Cantwell (D-WA), Cardin (D-MD), Casey (D-PA), Collins (R-ME), Coons (D-DE), Crapo (R-ID), Durbin (D-IL), Feinstein (D-CA), Franken (D-MN), Gillibrand (D-NY), Hagan (D-NC), Hoeven (R-ND), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Kerry (D-MA), Klobuchar (D-MN), Landrieu (D-LA), Lautenberg (D-NJ), Leahy (D-VT), Levin (D-MI), Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Mikulski (D-MD), Reed (D-RI), Rockefeller (D-WV), Schumer (D-NY), Shaheen (D-NH), Snowe (R-ME), Stabenow (D-MI), Tester (D-MT), Mark Udall (D-CO), Tom Udall (D-NM), Whitehouse (D-RI), Wicker (R-MS) and Wyden (D-OR). Continue reading

AHRQ Releases Reports for Public Comment

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has released the following new Future Research Needs – Methods Research Series reports for public comment (possible until July 8th):

NCATS Budget Proposal Sent to the Hill

On June 6th, HHS sent a letter on the planned National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees the NIH budget. The letter provides an overview of the organizational and funding adjustments that will be necessary to launch NCATS. According to Secretary Sebelius’ letter, “The establishment of NCATS will advance translational sciences by accelerating the development and delivery of new and more effective diagnostics and therapies.” Room is being made for NCATS within the NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs) cap of 27 by breaking up the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR). Approximately $553 million of programs from the $1.3 billion NCRR budget would be transferred to NCATS. The remaining funds would be distributed among several NIH ICs and the Office of the Director. The budget request for NCATS does not seek new funding above what was already requested for FY12 by the President.

Funding decisions on NCATS now rest largely with Congress. The FY12 budget process is likely to play out over many more months, so the future of NCATS will remain uncertain for some time to come.

Senators Circulating Letter in Support of NIH FY12 Budget

**DEADLINE EXTENDED UNTIL JUNE 13th FOR CONTACTS**

On June 8th Senators Casey (D-Pa.) and Burr (R-N.C.) released a letter in support of a strong FY12 NIH appropriation. The letter is addressed to the chief appropriators in the Senate and it is hoped that many senators will sign-on to the letter by the close of business tomorrow (6/9). It is recommended that advocates of NIH contact their Senate offices today or tomorrow requesting that the Senator sign-on to the attached letter. If you’ve made contacts with staffers in your Senate offices, now would be a great time to reach back to them to ask for something specific. If you have not yet made contacts in your Senate office, feel free to contact AADR Director of Government Affairs Jonathan Nurse for instructions on making this request in a manner that will not take up more than a few minutes of your time.

You will notice that the letter is silent on a specific appropriation level for NIH, which is by design. The thought is that a larger number of Senators will feel comfortable signing-on if it doesn’t appear to be a request for a huge increase at a time when leaders are discussing deficit reduction. The bipartisan letter effort comes just a few weeks after the House of Representatives voted to make a 12% cut the appropriation level of the bill that funds NIH. As a result, the Senate push in support of NIH will be important to efforts to sustain funding for NIH and its components, including NIDCR. If one of your Senate offices is open to considering signing-on, they should contact the following staffers to be added to the list of Senators:

Senator Casey’s (D) staffer is Sara Mabry: Sara_Mabry@casey.senate.gov
Senator Burr’s (R) staffer is Anna Abram: anna_abram@burr.senate.gov

Find contact information for your Senate offices by entering your zip code into the AADR Action Center, or here.

Questions? Contact AADR Director of Government Affairs at jnurse@aadronline.org