ARVO Advocates Thank Congress For FY2016 NIH/NEI Increase,
Urge FY2017 Budget Growth
On February 12, NAEVR managed for ARVO’s Annual Meeting Planning Committee an Advocacy Day that engaged 23 domestic and international advocates who visited 40 Congressional offices early in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 appropriations process. The group included ARVO President John Clark, Ph.D. (University of Washington) as well as two Members-In Training (MIT) and seven Emerging Vision Scientists (EVSs)—early-stage investigators who have not yet received an R01 grant and were nominated by Departments of Ophthalmology and Schools/Colleges of Optometry from around the country.
The ARVO Members-in-Training (MIT) and Emerging Vision Scientists (EVSs) included from left: Tahreem Mir, M.D. (Johns Hopkins University/Wilmer Eye Institute), Priya Matthews, M.D. (Columbia University), Folami Powell, Ph.D. (Medical College of Georgia), Romulo Albuquerque, M.D., Ph.D. (University of Kentucky), Mark Greiner, M.D. (University of Iowa), Marco Ruggeri, Ph.D. (University of Miami/Bascom Palmer Eye Institute), Megan Collins, M.D. (Johns Hopkins University/Wilmer Eye Institute), Matthew van Hook, Ph.D. (University of Nebraska/Truhlsen Eye Institute) and Karl Wahlin, Ph.D. (University of California San Diego/Shiley Eye Institute)
The ARVO advocates were among the first to thank Congress for approving FY2016 appropriations that funded the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at $32.1 billion, a $2 billion or 6.6 percent increase over FY2015, and National Eye Institute (NEI) funding at an operating budget of $708 million, a $31 million or 4.6 percent increase over its FY2015 operating budget. That level reflects the first time in four years that the NEI budget has exceeded the FY2012 level of $702 million—albeit by a modest 0.8 percent—since the devastating impact of the $36 million sequester cut in FY2013. The advocates requested FY2017 NIH funding of $34.5 billion and NEI funding of $770 million, reflecting five percent real growth above 2.5 percent biomedical inflation for each to re-build their budgets, which havelost nearly 25 percent of purchasing power since FY2003.
The visits were also timely since President Obama’s FY2017 budget request had just issued earlier that week and proposed to increase NIH funding by $825 million, or 2.6 percent, through the use of mandatory funding and to flat-fund the NEI. NAEVR has expressed disappointment in the President’s budget as it relies on politically-sensitive mandatory funding that does not grow the discretionary base. NAEVR prepared the advocates to address that issue, as well as the continued importance of raising the budget caps to facilitate funding for priority programs. Although Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act in October 2015 that established a budget framework for FY2016 and FY2017 that included sequester relief, the budget caps still limit growth and pit key program against each other for funding.
Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), Chairman of the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee, with Rigmor Baraas, Ph.D. (University College of Southeast Norway) and Uday Kompella, Ph.D. (University of Colorado). The researchers ran into Chairman Blunt in the hallway and thanked him for championing the $2 billion FY2016 NIH funding increase.
The MIT and EVS delegation, which reflected clinicians, clinician-scientists, and basic researchers dealing with a wide range of eye diseases, added greatly to ARVO’s message, stressing the impact that the combination of past cuts, flat funding, and lack of an inflationary increase at the NEI has had on their training and career paths. In most visits, these advocates were speaking with their contemporaries who also may be examining their own career paths. “The experience truly meant a lot to me, and I appreciated the opportunity to act as an agent of positive change for vision research, and the researchers and public we serve,” said Mark Greiner, M.D. (University of Iowa).
The NAEVR and AEVR Alliances have focused on the plight of early-stage investigators. On October 7, 2015, AEVR hosted the first-ever Emerging Vision Scientists Day on Capitol Hill in which these investigators displayed posters of their breakthrough research, which was followed by an October 8 Advocacy Day hosted by NAEVR.
Advocacy Tools Used, all Available on the Web site
The ARVO advocates used three important tools to convey their funding request:
- A dramatic graphic that showed how the FY2016 NEI operating budget of $708 million has, for the first time in four years, exceeded the FY2012 level of $702 million—albeit by a modest 0.8 percent—while biomedical inflation has continued to reduce purchasing power by 25 percent since FY2003.
- The vision community’s request for FY2017 NIH funding of $34.5 billion and NEI funding of $770 million, reflecting five percent real growth above 2.5 percent biomedical inflation for each to re-build their budgets. This included a list of successfully commercialized products resulting from NEI-funded investigator-initiated research and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants that demonstrates the return on the nation’s investment in vision research.
- A “Federal Funding for Vision Research is Vital” document that included the latest data about the incidence and cost of eye disease-the latter estimated at $145 billion annually in a June 2014 Prevent Blindness study-and the results of AEVR’s September 2014 study about the public’s attitudes about vision loss, specifically that a majority of Americans across racial and ethnic lines describe losing their vision as having the greatest impact on their daily lives.
ARVO President John Clark, Ph.D. (University of Washington), right, with Maddie Pannell, office of Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), who is the Ranking Member of the Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, with appropriations and authorization jurisdiction over
From left: Shahar Frenkel, M.D., Ph.D. (Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel), Douglas Gould, Ph.D., (University of California San Francisco), Megan Thompson, office of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Karl Wahlin, Ph.D. (University of California San Diego/Shiley Eye Institute), Christine Wildsoet, O.D., Ph.D. (University of California Berkeley) and Josh Esquivel, also from the office of Senator Feinstein
Cong. Jim McDermott (D-WA) with Eliot Sohn, M.D. (University of Iowa), whose father is friends with the Congressman
Cong. Andy Barr (D-KY) with Romulo Albuquerque, M.D., Ph.D., (University
From left: Megan Collins, M.D. (Johns Hopkins University/Wilmer Eye Institute), Alexandra Meardy, office of Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Nady Golestaneh, Ph.D. (Georgetown University), and Tahreem Mir, M.D. (Johns Hopkins University/Wilmer
From left: Yasuno Yoshiaki, Ph.D. (University of Tsukuba, Japan), Mark Greiner, M.D. (University of Iowa), Danielle Janowski, office of Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Eliot Sohn, M.D. (University of Iowa)
Shahar Frenkel, M.D., Ph.D. (Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel) Wendell Primus, office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Douglas Gould, Ph.D., (University of California San Francisco)
Matthew van Hook, Ph.D. and Scott Nawy, Ph.D. with Janelle Hinze, M.D., office of Cong. Brad Ashford (D-NE)
David Bond, office of Cong. Katherine Clark (D-MA) with Howard Ying, M.D., Ph.D. (Boston University)
From left: Joshua Salpeter, office of Cong. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, with Marco Ruggeri, Ph.D. (University of Miami/Bascom Palmer Eye Institute). Cong. Ros-Lehtinen is a co-Chair of the Congressional
From left: Tom Norton, Ph.D. (University of Alabama Birmingham), Cari Fike, office of Cong. Gary Palmer, ARVO Executive Director Iris Rush, and Caterina Gagliano, M.D., Ph.D. (Neurovisual Science Technology, Catania, Italy)
From left: John Eunice, office of Senator David Perdue (R-GA) and Folami Powell, Ph.D. (Medical College of Georgia)