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AAMC Research Perspectives May 2014

Amplifying Your Accomplishments inside the Beltway

Ann Bonham, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Officer

You may not, as a matter of course, notice but in addition to all that you do on your campuses, wards, and laboratories educating, training, providing clinical care and advancing science you're also acting as strong advocates in D.C. for medical research.

Your voices and the work you do on behalf of science and health lend substance and high regard to the AAMC's efforts to restore and stabilize NIH funding. Bringing your discoveries and accomplishments to light inside the beltway helps demonstrate the results of the federal investment in research.

One example received this month: the discovery at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of how the gene for the myeloid related protein (MRP-14) triggers dangerous blood clot formation a finding that may move us closer to preventing heart attacks.

Working in tandem in the lab and at the bedside, and with partners at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Brigham and Women's Hospital, industry and elsewhere, the scientists identified a new molecular pathway whereby the platelet promoting protein, MRP-14, can lead to blood clots, thrombosis, and thus, eventual heart attacks. In addition, since the gene, at least in mice, does not seem to be involved in the natural hemostatic processes that protect against bleeding, it may provide a safer margin for the treatment of blood clots.

In essence, MRP-14 could be a promising new target to develop more effective anti-thrombotic agents that would treat pathologic clotting in heart attack and stroke, while avoiding the negative side-effects associated with current blood thinning agents.

The leader of the team, Daniel I. Simon, M.D., the Herman K. Hellerstein Professor of Cardiovascular Research and Medicine at the School of Medicine and director of the University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute, told us, "The partnership between the School of Medicine and University Hospitals is critical for clinician-scientists who seek to advance and change the standard of care through discovery and innovation. We recognize unmet clinical needs in our daily care of patients that we address in our research. We move back and forth between the clinic and the basic lab. The bedside informs the bench and, in turn, the bench informs the bedside."

This is one breakthrough made possible by NIH funding and extensive collaboration. There are thousands more. Spreading the news of medical research like this reinforces the value of research and the remarkable return on investment.

The benefits of basic and other medical research are real and measurable-we've seen drastically improved efficacy of treatments for heart disease, cancer, and HIV/AIDS, not to mention new steps toward precision medicine currently underway. But let's be blunt: these advances require predictable and real growth in federal support for medical research funded by the NIH. If we continue along the current static funding trends, in the long term we will see fewer similar breakthroughs. We will not experience similar increases in the availability, safety and efficacy of early diagnoses and state-of-the-art treatments for the many serious diseases such as cancer, diabetes, autism, depression, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.

Congress hears this message. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) this week convened a hearing on the role of federal investments in driving innovation and development, and the "innovation deficit." The witnesses included Francis Collins of NIH and other Administration science leaders. You were there also, represented in written AAMC testimony submitted for the record.

In addition to amplifying your accomplishments, the AAMC is working with our new Council of Faculty and Academic Societies to update our advocacy toolkit and resources for individual faculty interested in further amplifying their voices on Capitol Hill. The Association continues to act through the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research to provide sustainable, predictable growth in NIH budget, and works with the deans and other leaders of academic medicine to strengthen the federal-academic partnership in research.

We believe the advocacy is helping. We were very pleased by the NIH's change in policy that permits investigators to resubmit revised research project grant applications as a new proposal, which could greatly benefit investigators, particularly early career investigators for whom it is especially difficult to develop entirely new research proposals if their first submissions have been rejected.

Please continue to share with us other examples of effective advocacy messages and strategies, communications with local media, and reports of research outcomes. We also urge you and your institutions to continue to reach out to policymakers, press, and public, and share those conversations with us so that we can amplify those messages nationally. In these and many other ways, AAMC amplifies your voice in Washington and carries forth the news of your accomplishments.

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