NATIONAL CAUCUS OF
BASIC BIOMEDICAL SCIENCE CHAIRS

DRAFT

A Executive Summary Meeting on April 21 – 23, 2004
Association of Anatomy,
Cell Biology and Neurobiology
Chairpersons

Association of Chairmen of
Departments of Physiology

Association of Medical and
Graduate Departments of
Biochemistry

Association of Medical School
Microbiology and Immunology
Chairs

Association of Medical School
Pharmacology Chairs

Association of Pathology Chairs

Association of Professors of
Human and Medical Genetics

Association of Medical School
Neuroscience Department
Chairpersons

Chairman:
H.George Mandel, Ph.D.
Professor and former Chairman
Department of Pharmacology &
Physiology
The George Washington
University Medical Center
2300 Eye St., NW
Washington, DC 20037
Tel: 202-994-3542
Fax: 202-994-2870

Vice Chairs:
Diana S. Beattie, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
Department of Biochemistry &
Molecular Pharmacology
West Virginia University
School of Medicine
Morgantown, WV 26506

Antonio Scarpa, MD, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
Department of Physiology and
Biophysics
Case School of Medicine
10900 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44106-4970
The Caucus, comprised of presidents and other
officers of associations of chairs of the basic
science departments of U.S. Medical Schools, now in
its 15th year, held its annual meeting in the
Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, The
George Washington University (GWU) School of
Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, D.C.
Twenty representatives attended, as did three
observers.

On April 21, before meeting with our political leaders
we were briefed by local experts on the political
process regarding health research, the present
status of funding for the NIH, and the dim prospects
for an adequate increase in funding for FY2005. This
briefing was especially important because of normal
turnover of officers in our constituent associations,
so that about half of our members at this meeting
were new to the Caucus. The efforts of the Caucus
were therefore coordinated with those of other
Washington groups speaking up for the scientific
community. The public affairs specialists of FASEB
(Dr. Howard Garrison); AAAS (Kei Koizumi);
Research!America (Bill Leinweber); the Campaign for
Medical Research (Kevin Mathis); and the Ad Hoc
Group for Medical Research Funding (David Moore),
therefore joined us in an effort focus on what we
jointly considered our major aims, in order to
maximize our effectiveness.

The entire Caucus met with Senator Stevens,
Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The group also broke up into small teams to meet
with the staff of many of the leaders in the Senate
and House of Representatives involved mainly with
appropriations, particularly for the NIH. Included
were Majority Leader Senator Frist, Senators Kerry,
Specter, Harkin, Nickles, Durbin and Gregg, House
Speaker Hastert, House Majority Leader DeLay,
House Democratic Leader Pelosi, and Congressmen
Bonilla, Toomey, Young and Barton. Our dinner
guests were Dr. John Marburger, Scientific Advisor
to President Bush and Director, Office of Science
and Technology Policy (OSTP), and Rachel Levinson,
Assistant Director for Life Sciences, OSTP.

During our discussions we expressed our extreme
concern about the future of the NIH budget, which
has been rising at less than the science-related
inflationary increase ever since the doubling. Even
though we are aware of the many other pressing
issues that the government faces, we believe it is
important to look ahead to realize the maximum
benefit that discoveries in health research can
provide the nation. Although the minimal increase
proposed for the NIH in FY2005 is slightly larger than
that for other discretionary fund obligations, we
need to continue our momentum of funding the best
of the many new imaginative ideas arising from
recent biomedical breakthroughs. Such an effort will
not be possible under the current funding
proposals, which will also discourage the best and
brightest of our young people from entering careers
in science, thereby limiting future achievements.
Such minimal increases will, in fact, negate the
valuable contribution made by the previous doubling
of the NIH budget. We were surprised how unfamiliar
so many of our officials were about recent
health-related discoveries. Fortunately we could
provide them our brief brochure describing such
progress.
We also expressed our deep concern about the efforts proposed in the recent
Congress to impose political considerations into the decision making process for
funding individual grants. We consider scientific peer review of proposed research
applications essential to select the most valuable projects proposed by researchers
whose expertise in the area has been demonstrated. An amendment in the House of
Representatives recently challenged certain funding decisions made by the NIH
related to studies of sexual habits and disease transmission. The amendment was
defeated but only by a single vote, and the issue may recur. The Caucus reaffirmed
its confidence in the peer review process to evaluate scientific promise, which
should not be replaced by Congressional decision making.

Another issue we addressed relates to foreign students and scientists who have
been training or collaborating with U.S. investigators, or who wish to do so. Often
they have experienced unnecessary and severe delays or denials in entering or
reentering the U.S. because of national security concerns. The Caucus understands
the need for extreme vigilance but requests a more realistic and timely evaluation
of these policies, since such participation with us has been essential for the
success of the American scientific enterprise.

We supported the “Roadmap” proposed by NIH Director Zerhouni, which contains
excellent approaches for improving the outcome of biomedical research and
translating those discoveries into medical practice. Greater emphasis on team
science and multi-disciplinary research approaches will be needed because of the
interdependence of modern technology and improved means of communication.
However, we feel that these new thrusts should not reduce the emphasis on the
funding of outstanding and imaginative ideas from individual scientists. The
investigator-initiated R01 grant mechanism has been remarkably successful in
providing major innovative breakthroughs through independent discoveries, and
funding for such projects should not be curtailed.

We mentioned again that the current fiscal health of our nation’s medical centers
and hospitals should be considered more emphatically by the Government because
of the financial difficulties experienced by these valuable institutions.

Other Caucus guests brought to GWU to provide information and discussion
included Tony Mazzaschi, Director of the CAS of the AAMC, who described current
issues being faced to assure responsible conduct of research, such as conflicts of
interest, a role for coPI’s at multiple-institutional programs, complexities in effort
reporting for federal grants, and the present limitations on stem cell research.
Janet Shoemaker, Director of Public Affairs for the American Society for
Microbiology, focused on problems of biosecurity, the delicate balance between
openness of publication and sharing of information, and national security. She
pointed to the increasing responsibilities of the CDC, which is facing a budget cut.
Dr. Alan Leshner, Chief Executive Officer of the AAAS, provided excellent advice on
improving the effectiveness of communication between scientists and both the
general public and our elected leaders, in order to have our important message
better understood. He was encouraged to publish his suggestions. The Honorable
John Porter, former chairman of the House NIH Appropriations Subcommittee, and
one of the architects that led to the doubling of the NIH budget over the past 5
years, emphasized that we should constantly maintain contacts with our political
leadership to focus on achievements in improving human health, and to retain that
momentum. Because this is an election year, budgetary uncertainties will probably
continue. He also pointed to the importance of carefully selecting titles of grant
applications to minimize the opportunity of misinterpretations for political purposes.
Dr. Norka Ruiz Bravo, Deputy Director of NIH Extramural Research, discussed the
cost of the NIH “Roadmap” which is expected to reach $237M (about 1% of the total
NIH budget) for FY2005, and $ 507M by FY2009. We again emphasized the valuable
contributions of the R01 investigator-initiated program. The NIH is making efforts to
shorten the review time required for amended applications, and to permit easier
electronic submission. Mary Woolley, President of Research!America, showed
survey results revealing the strong desire of our residents everywhere to increase
research on health and disease, their willingness to pay more for it, and the major
economic advantages resulting from such research. Dr. Charlotte Kuh of the
National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences, is leading a valuable but
complex effort to reevaluate the biomedical sciences, to provide a more realistic
approach, which should also benefit the quality of these programs.

We reemphasize that scientists should contact their Congressional representatives
while in their home districts, to highlight the accomplishments of their local medical
schools and research institutions. That approach, which most scientists are hesitant
to initiate, can be even more productive than a visit to the political leaders in
Washington where they are so extremely busy.

It is unreasonable to expect immediate success in evaluating the effectiveness of
our meetings with our elected representatives who face enormous pressures from
many different directions - the disturbing economy, the war in Iraq, the growing
national debt, the increased budget needs for other programs, the desire to reduce
taxes, etc. However, it is necessary to constantly remind them of the valuable
contribution that medical research has produced and will continue to provide for
the improved health of our nation. Every effort should be made to permit the
realization of new discoveries to combat disease and improve the quality of life of
our people, and with a minimum of delay. That overwhelming desire of our
population clearly has been demonstrated in every survey conducted.

Respectfully Submitted

H. George Mandel Chairman
AACBNC