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NAEVR Testifies at House Public Witness Hearing Requesting FY2014 Funding for NIH of $32 Billion, NEI of $730 Million

NAEVR witness Hendrik Scholl, M.D. (Wilmer Eye Institute/Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine) testifies before the Subcommittee
NAEVR witness Hendrik Scholl, M.D. (Wilmer Eye Institute/Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine) testifies before the Subcommittee
On March 13, NAEVR testified at a Public Witness hearing of the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee requesting Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of $32 billion and National Eye Institute (NEI) of $730 million. This hearing was the second held this session by Subcommittee Chair Jack Kingston (R-GA), who also presided over a March 5 hearing that featured senior staff from Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) agencies, including NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., regarding funding for major public health and research organizations.

Left to right: Dr. Scholl, Scott and Susie Trotochaud and Moira Shea from the Coalition for Usher Syndrome Research, and NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky. Susie Trotochaud also testified before the Subcommittee.
Left to right: Dr. Scholl, Scott and Susie Trotochaud and Moira Shea from the Coalition for Usher Syndrome Research, and NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky. Susie Trotochaud also testified before the Subcommittee.
NAEVR-which was one of 24 organizations selected out of 150 that had requested to appear-was represented by Hendrik Scholl, M.D., who serves as The Dr. Frieda Derdeyn Bambas Professor of Ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Scholl, who received his medical degree in Germany and completed a fellowship in London, provided an international perspective on the importance of adequately funding the NIH and NEI. As a clinician-scientist who focuses on diseases of the retina, primarily retinal degenerations that include age-related macular degeneration (AMD), he cited examples of NEI’s leadership in determining the genetic basis of disease, including AMD. Chairman Kingston acknowledged that his father lost his vision due to AMD.

NAEVR member organization, the Coalition for Usher Syndrome Research, was also selected to testify. Susie Trotochaud from Georgia, a parent of two children with Usher Syndrome Type 1, which is characterized by profound deafness at birth followed by blindness in early adolescence, requested the Subcommittee to encourage FY2014 NIH funding at $20 million for Usher to promote more research into the disease. Usher Syndrome was also mentioned by a third vision-related witness, the Helen Keller National Center’s Executive Director Joseph McNulty. Helen Keller receives federal funding to assist individuals with hearing and vision disorders, ranging in age from children to seniors.

After hearing the testimony by all three vision organizations, Subcommittee Ranking Member Cong. Rosa DeLauro commented that, “What you are all doing for children and seniors is important and makes a serious point about the impact of sequestration-we are just not talking about numbers here, we are talking about real people, and what we do here has a profound impact on their lives.” Regarding the sequester, Dr. Scholl noted in his testimony that it cuts NIH funding by $1.6 billion and NEI by $36 million, the latter potentially reflecting up to 90 new grants that NEI will not be able to fund, any one of which could hold the promise to save or restore vision.

Commenting on the hearing, NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky noted that, “Despite the current funding challenges, there was a positive energy at this hearing that I had not felt in prior years. Much of that was due to Chairman Kingston and Ranking Member DeLauro interacting with the witnesses, either asking questions or acknowledging the important work each organization performs. The fact that three vision-related organizations were invited to testify out of so many that requested to participate speaks volumes about the importance of vision issues.”

The LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee has proceeded with FY2014 appropriations hearings despite FY2013 appropriations not yet being finalized-although the House on March 6 passed a second six-month Continuing Resolution (H.R. 933) which the Senate was debating the week of March 11. The President also has not issued the Administration’s budget proposal, which is expected April 8. The House Budget Committee passed its proposed budget framework on March 12, while the Senate introduced its version on March 13.