NATIONAL CAUCUS OF
BASIC BIOMEDICAL SCIENCE CHAIRS



A Executive Summary Meeting on June 27-29, 2006
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 School of Medicine
& Health Sciences
2300 Eye St., NW
Washington, DC 20037
Tel: 202-994-3542
Fax: 202-994-2870
Phmhgm@gwumc.edu

Vice Chairs:

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

Vincent A. Chiappinelli, Ph.D.
Professor& Chair
Department of Pharmacology &
Physiology
The George Washington University
School of Medicine and Health        
Sciences
Washington, D.C. 20037
We were briefed by colleagues from the AAMC, FASEB,
Campaign for Medical Research, AAAS and Research!
America in order to present a united front when we visit
with members of Congress. Major points:

  1. To inform them of major scientific      
    accomplishments in the fight against disease,
    especially those resulting from the recent doubling
    of the NIH budget.
  2. To let our representatives in Congress understand
    that, in spite of the tight Federal budget, the NIH
    budget needs to grow annually to sustain the
    momentum of new discoveries in health research, to
    avoid negating previous increases, and to assure
    the best of our young people that there is
    enthusiastic support for their entering careers in
    improving health of our people.
  3. To stress the dependence on innovation in science
    and technology in the future of the country’s
    prosperity.

We discussed these items with the staff of key members of
the House and Senate, including many of the leadership of
both Houses, those on NIH appropriations committees, and
others with special interest in the NIH.

 With NIH Director Zerhouni we urged enhanced support
for investigator-initiated R01 grants, and to seek optimal
balance between clinical and basic research, as well as
individual and  team scientists.

 Dr. Toni Scarpa described the many innovative changes
being introduced or considered by NIH Center for Scientific
Review for the more rapid and effective evaluation of
research grants.

 Tony Mazzaschi described the many changes relating to
basic science departments at medical schools that may
alter the way we function.  We had briefings on changes
being implemented or discussed relating to on-line versus
hard-copy publications of scientific articles, a process that
is still on-going. We also heard about mounting difficulties
on the use of animals for research, and the well organized
and financed programs underway to stop all use of animals
for research. This has caused serious disruptions and
stoppages in research programs and has led to occasional
violence.   

Our visitors were unanimous about
the need for individual
scientists to stress the importance of their own
achievements in health research with their political
representatives in their own home districts. Opinion
editorials by scientists in their local press were also
advocated.


                                 H. George Mandel
                                                 
Minutes


The National Caucus of Basic Biomedical Science Chairs, comprised of presidents and other
officers of associations of chairs of the basic science departments of U.S. Medical Schools,
now in its 17th year, held its annual meeting in the Department. of Pharmacology &
Physiology, of The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences,
Washington, D.C. Eighteen representatives attended.
 
         Before meeting with our political leaders, we were briefed by experts on the political
process regarding health research issues, the present status of funding for the NIH, and the
apparently dim prospects for an adequate increase in funding for FY2007. This briefing was
especially important because several of our members were new to the Caucus due to annual
turnovers of constituent association officers. The Caucus efforts were coordinated with those
of other Washington experts speaking up for the scientific community, and to maximize our
effectiveness. Meeting with us were the public affairs specialists of  the AAMC (
David
Moore
),  who also serves as executive secretary of the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research
Funding); FASEB (
Jon Retzlaff); and Research!America (Bill Leinweber). We were
informed that there is little slack in the available “discretionary federal budget” for FY2007 so
that major increases for the NIH at this time are unrealistic. Because the NIH appropriation has
been essentially flat for the past 3 years, in constant dollars the proposed FY 2007 budget
actually represents an 11% decrease in research funding. Attempts have been made by
Congressional advocates for securing additional funds for NIH, notably by Senators Specter
and Harkin and Congressman Castle, but these have not been successful. Right now, an
increase of perhaps $100 million may be possible, but still well below last year’s NIH allocation
in real terms.

     It was emphasized that during our visits with Congress we should focus on the importance
of basic bio-medical science research  as the engine that drives medical progress, which
deserves to be reinforced, and that attracting and  training new investigators serves an
important role for future continued success. It was suggested that we thank our political
leaders during our planned visit on Capitol Hill for their efforts in support of health research, in
spite of the tight federal budget, and that we describe scientific breakthroughs due to the
previous doubling of the NIH budget. We should also stress the enormous benefits accrued to
the U.S. because of past expenditures in health research and biotechnology, and emphasize
the need to retain our country’s leadership in the fight against disease.  It is also extremely
cost-effective: for example, a $1 investment on technical innovations in heart attack care
alone has been calculated to provide a $7 return to the economy. We were encouraged to
continue our advocacy efforts at the local level also, since our representatives pay enormous
attention to contacts in their home districts.  We should invite them to our local medical
centers to demonstrate progress in health research originating from contributions in their own
districts.  

         
Kei Koizumi, Director of the AAAS Research & Development Budget and Policy
Program, applauded the increasing visibility of science and the American Competitiveness
Initiative in the President’s State of the Union address, but noted its exclusion of biomedical
research as well as most physical science activities other than those of the National Science
Foundation, the Department of Energy and the National Institute of Standards and
Technology, which had previously been subjected to declining budgets. In the
projected
FY2007 budget, almost all components  of NIH would suffer decreases of about 11% between
FY 2004 and 2007, considering biomedical inflationary costs of about 4% per annum. An
increase was proposed for the Office of the Director, largely for biodefense, but also some
expansion of the NIH Roadmap. The total number of competing and non-competing NIH
research project grants will decrease from FY2005 and FY2007, with grant success rates for
FY2007 close to 19%. Research center grants would reach an all-time high of nearly 10% of
the total NIH budget for FY2007. Congress is also considering an NIH reauthorization bill
which will specify future funding as well as redistribution of appropriations within the NIH.        

         We also met with the Honorable
John E. Porter, former chairman of the House
Appropriations NIH Subcommittee, an outstanding contributor to Congressional boosts of
health research, and currently  Chair of Research!America.  
Mary Woolley President of
Research!America described powerful survey data  on the strong desire of our citizens to
emphasize increased health research and a willingness to pay for such efforts.  In stead of
Administration plans to increase selectively support for physical science research, our visitors
strongly urged our need to increase support for
all science, including biomedical research.
Economic growth depends on interactions of all disciplines of science and technology, an
investment we need to make and sustain, since it represents creation of new jobs, and leads
to cost savings when considering the huge expenditures caused by disease. Because our
public is largely unaware of where scientific research is conducted, and who is doing it,
scientists should speak up in their home districts, should challenge candidates running for
political office on their stand on biomedical research, and should offer editorials to local
newspapers to explain the need for furthering health research.  
Nancy Granese, the new
Executive Director of the Campaign for Medical Research, emphasized the need for increased
participation by patients and members of the business community to become advocates for
health research. Scientists should encourage such contacts with Congressional
representatives.
Lynn Marquis, National Coordinator for the Joint Steering Committee for
Public Policy, described the attempts by scientists in genetics, cell biology and neuroscience
to educate Congress about scientific achievements and also alerting scientists about
upcoming pertinent issues.  She also encouraged scientists writing opinion editorials for the
local press, and conveying their excitement about scientific discoveries to their political
leaders. The Committee also conducts educational briefings with members of Congress and
their staffs on various disease issues.  

         The Caucus split into small teams to meet with many of the leaders and staff of the
Senate and House of Representatives.  Included were Senator
Harkin, and the staffs of
Senators
Frist  (Majority  Leader),  Reid (Minority Leader),  DeWine, Durbin, Clinton and
McCain, and of Congressman Boehner (Majority Leader), Congresswoman Pelosi (Minority
Leader), Congressmen
Lewis (Chairman, Appropriations),  Regula (NIH Appropriations
Subcommittee chairman),
Castle and Congresswoman Granger. (We could not meet with the
staff of Senator
Specter whose scheduler was uncommunicative). We expressed our extreme
concern about the future of the NIH budget, which for several years now has been rising at
less than the science-related inflationary increase.  We explained the need to continue our
momentum of funding the best of the many new imaginative ideas arising from recent
biomedical breakthroughs, and that inadequate NIH budgets also discourage the best of our
young people from entering careers in science, thereby limiting future achievements. We
reminded our business-oriented leaders that the country’s economic future depends on
scientific and technical innovation. The decline for FY2007, proposed in the Administration
budget for the NIH, will, in fact, negate the valuable contributions made by the previous
budget doubling. The Caucus provided our political leaders with our brochure describing
medical and scientific achievements resulting from earlier generous increases, as well as a
summary of the report of the business-oriented Council on Competitiveness which
emphasized that failure to innovate in scientific research and development means an
abdication of our prosperity, and will limit our economic future. We also showed Research!
America data on the public’s overwhelming interests:  health as well as stem cell research.

         Dr.
Elias Zerhouni, Director of the NIH, joined us in an open and positive dinner
discussion. Since our government had built the infrastructure for biomedical research, he felt
it is now necessary to explore the many opportunities arising because of this wise investment,
and to support scientists who have been encouraged to enter the research community
because of federal recognition of health research.  Furthermore, the returns on the NIH
investment have been incredibly high. Budgetary increases are now required to prevent
further declines in governmental support for health research. He felt that success rates of
grant applications have to take into account the considerable increase in submission of
requests. However, we expressed concerns because annual allocations to the R01 grant
program, the mainstay of research by medical faculties, had actually been reduced.
In spite of a declining NIH budget, we agreed that Roadmap support is desirable to further
translational research for enhancing clinical advances, as well as the Pathway to
Independence Award program for young investigators with academic aspirations, and the
Pioneer Awards for high risk research. However, balance should be maintained to also permit
more R01 funding. We were reassured that support for applied relative to basic research had
not changed, nor had the ratio between solicited and unsolicited research programs. We
admire Dr. Zerhouni’s NIH leadership in planning for the future and integrating the many
favorable activities while functioning under severe budgetary restrictions.

                 Dr.
Toni Scarpa, the new Director of the NIH Center for Scientific Review,
described recent increases in the number of applications being referred for review and in the
number of applications per applicant. There has been a steady increase in submission of R21
applications for short-term exploratory research. He described changes in the review
procedures, including electronic submission, more rapid posting of summary statements,  
proposed shortening of NIH applications and the review cycle, improving review of clinical
research applications, reassessing innovative high risk/reward research, and recruiting more
seasoned reviewers with a promise of  a reduced workload. Consideration is being given to
conduct review discussions by telephone and video, and reevaluating the entire review
process The Caucus suggested that more than the present 50% of applications be scored,
using characteristic descriptive terms to enhance feedback to the investigator. We were very
impressed by recent changes introduced by Dr. Scarpa.
         
         
Tony Mazzaschi, Director of AAMC’s Council of Academic Societies, described other
biomedical issues. Gone are the days when the scientific community had strong
Congressional champions for science,  such as Congressmen Natcher and Rogers, who so
understood the need for biomedical research!  He mentioned the role of “pork” in various
Congressional bills, and explained that many of our universities encourage these earmarks.
Some of the appropriation bills might never pass the Congress were it not for the inclusion of
these “projects”. The budgetary decrease in the NIH may also result in limiting the size of
biomedical graduate programs, He is increasingly concerned about efforts to shift costs to our
institutions, such as putting a cap on tuition reimbursement. The AAMC Basic Science Chairs
Leadership Forum is studying the impact of the growth of Ph.D.’s in clinical departments. The
Forum is also concerned, with many departmental mergers, about the long-term viability of
basic science chair organizations. Debates are ongoing at the AAMC on increasing the size of
medical school classes, and a meeting is planned on what basic science medical students
need to know. Tony discussed the national meeting of medical school basic science
department chairs last October. Scheduling of another meeting is being delayed until
completion of the upcoming AAMC strategic planning exercise, an effort led by the AAMC’s
recently installed President, Dr. Darrell Kirch.  

Because of the major changes taking place in the publication process of scientific reports,
Cara Kaufman and Alma Wills, of the Kaufman-Wills Group LLC, Baltimore, discussed this
issue. On-line publishing has greatly increased the extent of information available to
scientists, and the speed and convenience at which such data can be accessed. Availability of
on-line information has reduced authors’ subscriptions to journals, thus increasing the costs
of hard-copy journals, and decreasing effectiveness of budget-limited libraries The NIH,
through PubMed, has encouraged open access (no cost to writer or user) to publications
resulting from government-funded science within 12 months of publication, and a bill in
Congress would mandate such access within 6 months. Many professional societies have
expressed concern since they carefully monitor quality of publications for the journals they
own, and have used it as a source of revenue to fund their scientific activities. The smoke has
not yet cleared, but the extent and nature of peer review of articles, the financial support
needed by authors for submitting their publications, and the costs to the NIH to support open
access still require clarification, since Immediate free online access is very expensive. We felt
it vital to assure that only peer-reviewed articles in their final form be available on the internet
to ascertain quality.

The use by scientists of animals for biomedical research has been of increasing concern and
often violence.  Although animals must be treated with great respect, with minimal pain and
used only when necessary for investigations, some well-funded organizations have arisen to
prevent all use of animals in research.
Mary Hanley of the National; Association for
Biomedical Research, and
Janet Flynn of the Foundation for Biomedical Research,
described one such well- financed lobbying organization, the Humane Society of the U.S..
These activities have greatly increased university costs of medical research and paperwork to
provide protection for their staff. Many law schools now have special programs on animal
rights which will make the required use of animals for research even more difficult, expensive
and hazardous.

The Caucus was shown a draft of a report on the declining success rates of funding
investigator initiated R01 NIH Research Grant Applications, by myself and Dr. Elliot Vesell, to
be submitted for publication. Comments on the report by Caucus members were solicited.

In other Caucus business, a committee had been appointed to consider the future leadership
of the Caucus should there be a change (although not currently planned!), and to review the
role the Caucus should perform in its advocacy of basic biomedical science. The Committee
concluded that we continue with the present leadership, repeat our messages to Congress,
and retain our current meeting format. Dr.
Vincent Chiappinelli was designated to succeed
me once I will no longer chair the Caucus. He was appointed a Caucus Vice Chair.

Dr.
Diana Beattie, who has served as Vice Chair of the Caucus since its beginning in 1991,
has accepted a position as Dean at the University of Oman Medical College, and will be
retiring from her role as Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at W. VA
University School of Medicine. She and I agreed that she should relinquish her previous role
at NCBBSC, but we will continue to keep her in touch with the Caucus. She has served the
Caucus admirably, has been most helpful in offering excellent advice, and on behalf of the
Caucus we wish her continued success in her new and exciting role far away from the U.S.

Altogether, Caucus members received extensive non-scientific information on major concerns
related to basic biomedical science. Although we probably did not turn around the declining
budget of the NIH, our visits on the Hill may have had a positive effect on future funding. Had
we not made the effort, such progress would be even less certain!
                                         
                                                                  Respectfully Submitted
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
 H. George Mandel
                                                                         Chairman
                                                                                                         

                                                                                                                                                       
AACBNC