By Lyly Luhachack, PhD, ASHG Policy & Advocacy Assistant
Congress is currently considering ways to provide additional relief measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which may include expanded support for the research enterprise. To date, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has received about $3.5 billion in supplemental funding for diagnostics, vaccine development and other countermeasures. The latest NIH initiative announced last week, Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics or RADx, aims to accelerate development and commercialization of innovative COVID-19 testing technologies.
To address the impact the pandemic has had on the research workforce, last week Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Fred Upton (R-MI) sent a letter, with almost 200 representatives co-signing, to leaders in the House of Representatives in support of $26 billion in relief funding for all federal research agencies in the next COVID-19 spending bill. The funds would provide supplements to grants impacted by COVID-19, support personnel and operating costs at core research facilities, and cover additional funding for graduate students, postdocs and other trainees. Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) led a similar effort on the Senate side, along with 31 of their Senate colleagues. Thanks to all ASHG members who wrote to their representatives in Congress to build support for these letters through our Advocacy Center! These letters send a strong signal to Congressional leaders that members of Congress wish to provide assistance to the research enterprise.
Looking to the future, multiple coalitions from different sectors are united in urging Congress to support sustained and robust investment in the country’s research ecosystem. The Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research recently called for Congressional leaders to include $31 billion in emergency supplemental funds for the NIH to address both immediate and long-term impacts. This includes increasing coronavirus-related research opportunities, research ramp up costs, investing in cutting-edge technologies and lab infrastructure, and continued robust funding through the regular appropriations process. An Task Force on American Innovation-led letter sent earlier this week by the group outlines three key areas in need of increased support: research funding, research infrastructure, and the STEM workforce.
It is unclear at this time when Congress will take up the next coronavirus-related legislation and if it will include additional funding for federal research agencies. ASHG Staff will continue to monitor Congress and provide updates through this blog and the Advocate Update sent to ASHG Advocates each month. For more information on ASHG’s advocacy initiatives, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.