Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK) have been selected to receive the Edwin C. Whitehead Award for Medical Research Advocacy for their steadfast commitment to increasing investments in research to advance innovative studies focused on preventing and eradicating diseases that take a tremendous toll on families and our economy. They will be honored at Research!America's Advocacy Awards Dinner on Wednesday, March 16, 2016 at the Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C.
"Through their visionary work, Senator Blunt and Congressman Cole led the charge on Capitol Hill in providing the largest increase to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget in more than a decade," said Research!America Chair John Edward Porter. "They inspired other policymakers to bring research to the forefront of American priorities to ensure scientists have additional resources to tackle our most threatening health challenges. Our nation reaps numerous economic and social benefits when investments in research are strengthened."
Senator Blunt and Congressman Cole, chairmen of the Senate and House subcommittees responsible for funding the NIH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and other key health agencies, are being honored for their extraordinary commitment to bolstering funding for medical research. Working together, these two leaders secured the largest appropriated (or discretionary) increase in NIH funding since 2003. The fiscal year 2016 omnibus appropriations bill provides a total of $32 billion for NIH overall, which includes $5 billion for the National Cancer Institute, a $350 million increase for Alzheimer's research, $200 million for the Precision Medicine Initiative, and a $300 million CDC increase focused on disease prevention and biodefense research.
"As Chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies, I was proud to secure a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health this year," Blunt said. "It's an honor to be recognized by Research!America, and humbling to see all of the groundbreaking efforts that are underway to advance progress toward lifesaving cures. Continuing our investment in biomedical research will not only give hope to families battling disease, it will also allow our country to remain on the cutting edge of medical innovation, create jobs, and substantially lower health care costs over the long term."
Blunt serves as the Vice Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. He is the Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee. In addition to chairing the Senate Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, he serves on the Agriculture, Interior, Defense, Foreign Operations, and Transportation Subcommittees. He also serves on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Blunt worked with Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and introduced the Excellence in Mental Health Act in February 2013 to put community mental health centers on an equal footing with other health centers by improving quality standards and fully funding community services and offering patients increased services like 24-hour crisis psychiatric care, counseling and integrated services for mental illness. The bill was signed into law in 2014.
In addition to chairing the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, Cole is a member of the Defense and Interior subcommittees and also sits on the Budget and Rules committees. Along with spearheading efforts to increase funding for NIH and CDC, Cole co-sponsored and supported the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, which was signed into law in April 2014. By redirecting taxpayer dollars from political party conventions, the law freed up additional federal funding for pediatric medical research to help overcome childhood cancer, autism and many other diseases impacting children.
"Last year brought with it a truly significant moment for the future of medical research, and I consider it a great privilege to have been part of it," said Cole. "Early on in my tenure as LHHS chair, I recognized that adequate disease research was not only a clearly unmet need in our society, but it was an issue that could and should be met with bipartisan cooperation and agreement by lawmakers. As much as I am honored to receive this award, I am even more pleased that the recent investment in research brings us much closer than before to finding cures and slowing down or even preventing diseases. I am hopeful we can build on this progress in the fiscal year 2017 appropriations process."
Research!America's 2016 Advocacy Awards dinner honors outstanding individuals and organizations in advocacy for medical, health, and scientific research. The Whitehead Award, named in honor of Research!America founder, Edwin C. "Jack" Whitehead, recognizes exemplary leaders, particularly those in public office, who have demonstrated a deep commitment to advancing medical and health research as a national priority and who galvanize others in support of science.
Other 2016 Advocacy Award winners are Harold Varmus, M.D., Lewis Thomas University professor, Weill Cornell Medicine and Nobel Laureate; John Noseworthy, M.D., president and CEO, Mayo Clinic; Trish and George Vradenburg, co-founders, UsAgainstAlzheimer's (UsA2); Robert Langer, Sc.D., David H. Koch Institute professor, MIT; The ALS Association; and Lisa Paulsen and The Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF).
About Research!America's Advocacy Awards Dinner
The annual Research!America Advocacy Awards program was established in 1996 by the Board of Directors to honor outstanding advocates for medical, health and scientific research. Recognized individuals and organizations are those whose extraordinary leadership efforts have been effective in advancing our nation's commitment to medical, health and other scientific research. This year the awards event will take place on March 16, 2016, at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit http://www.researchamerica.org/advocacy_awards.
Research!America is the nation's largest nonprofit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority. Founded in 1989, Research!America is supported by member organizations representing 125 million Americans. Visit http://www.researchamerica.org.