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Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee Hosts Meeting with Science Industry Leaders on Research Funding and Innovation

WASHINGTON, D.C. Strategizing positive ways for the U.S. to continue to grow as a world leader in technology and biomedical research, eleven U.S. science industry business leaders, advocates, and academics, including Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institute of Health,  met with seven U.S. senators during a Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee meeting at the U.S. Capitol yesterday for a discussion on recent successes directly related to federal investment and partnerships with universities, and health and technology organizations.

Senator Mark Begich (D-AK), Chairman of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, hosted the roundtable discussion. He was joined by Senators Carper (D-DE), Cardin (D-MD), Coons (D-DE), Hagan (D-NC), Mikulski (D-MD), and Warner (D-VA).

"We're searching for the best way to connect research and universities with the economy and job creation and we're here to cooperatively figure this out," said Sen. Begich. "There are some who don't see research and development as the federal government's responsibility, and we're ready to face that battle ahead."

The group underscored the direct relationship between federal research funding and innovation in the biomedical sector as well as the importance of research and development (R&D) in a changing global economy. Recent concerns have been raised in Congress over federal investment in biomedical research in light of the current fiscal constraints on the federal budget. Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and head of the Human Genome Project, further stressed the importance of medical research in improving individual health as well as the health of the economy.

"There is sometimes a disconnect between the world of science and academia and the American people as a whole. We need to focus on direct results that improve an individual's health or reduce national healthcare costs. For example, we have reduced the chance of death from a heart attack by 70% over the past ten years. And that all comes from the basic science funding from the federal government," said Dr. Collins of NIH.

"Other countries-even ones with economies worse off than ours, like Europe - see the benefits of this important investment as a way to grow their economies. China has pledged to invest $308.5 billion over the next five years in biomedical research. We at NIH see a $2.21 return on every one dollar we spend in biomedical research. That's the power of research."

President Obama and the Democratic Caucus have both stated that research and development is key to growing and maintaining our leadership role in the global economy, contributing to economic growth, job creation, innovation, and industrial competition. Sen. Begich highlighted this message and stressed the importance of amplifying it to our universities, technology and research companies, and our communities.

"The best way to communicate this message to your boards is to keep it simple. You all in this room have earned tremendous respect in your communities, and the American people need to hear your stories--simple stories that people can relate to and prove results from this important issue," said Sen. Begich.

University presidents, including Jay Perman, President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore; and Hunter Rawlings III, President of the Association of American Universities, expanded on the relationship of university research and the commercial sector. "We need to invest in our young people, the young investigators of tomorrow, if we are going to see the same dedication to discovery and development in coming years."

Participants in today's meeting included:

  1. Francis Collins, National Institutes of Health, Director
  2. Randy Cortright, Virent Energy System Inc., Founder and Chief Technical Officer
  3. Bob Dayton, Delaware BIO, President
  4. Shelley Hearne, Pew Health Group at Pew Charitable Trusts, Managing Director
  5. Darrell Kirch, Association of American Medical Colleges, President and CEO 
  6. Kelvin Lee, Delaware Biotechnology Institute at the University of Delaware, Director
  7. M. Peter McPherson, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, President
  8. Lloyd Minor, Johns Hopkins University, Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs
  9. Jay Perman, University of Maryland, Baltimore, President
  10. Hunter Rawlings III, Association of American Universities, President
  11. Mark Velleca, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Chief Policy and Advocacy Officer

About the Senate Democratic Steering & Outreach Committee

The Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee facilitates an ongoing conversation between Senate Democrats and the American public. At the direction of the Chairman, the Committee seeks to inform, engage, and mobilize advocacy groups and constituencies to advance the policies and priorities of the Senate Democratic Caucus. The Committee is dedicated to ensuring that diverse communities have a voice within the Democratic Caucus on key issues facing our nation. The Committee is one of two Democratic Leadership Committees in the Senate. Senator Mark Begich (Alaska) serves as Chairman and Senator Daniel K. Akaka (Hawaii) serves as Vice Chairman of the Committee.

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