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ASPET Science Policy Update: March 2019

March 18, 2019
by Tyler Lamb, Sr. Manager, Government Affairs & Science Policy

Check out the latest legislative and regulatory activities affecting pharmacologists and the larger biomedical sciences community.

FASEB Hill Day

ASPET participated in FASEB’s annual Capitol Hill Day on March 6-7. ASPET was represented by Dr. Kent Vrana of the Penn State College of Medicine, and by ASPET PA staff member Tyler Lamb. Participants met with 109 congressional offices, strongly urging legislators to raise the budget caps and support FASEB’s fiscal year (FY) 2020 funding recommendations for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy Office of Science, Veterans Administration Medical and Prosthetic Research Program, and the competitive research program administered by the Department of Agriculture. Attendees spent additional time with staff and members of Congress explaining NSF’s pivotal role in supporting biological research.

ASPET will participate in hill days supporting our coalition partners the Coalition for Health Funding and the Alliance for a Stronger FDA later this month.

FY 20 Appropriations

The White House released its “skinny budget” last week and the remainder of its budget documents this week. You can find the full budget request online. Some selected proposed funding figures:

  • National Institutes of Health - $34.368 billion (-12.1%)
  • National Science Foundation - $7.1 billion (-12.1%)
  • Food & Drug Administration - $6.1 billion (+12%)

The numbers for NIH and NSF are at odds with the biomedical research community’s request for funding increases. ASPET is calling for a $2.5 billion increase to NIH’s budget and approximately a $1 billion increase to NSF’s budget. For these increases to come to fruition, House and Senate leadership will likely have to reach an agreement to raise the budget caps that determine how much money can be used on non-discretionary spending. If a budget agreement cannot be reached, appropriations subcommittees may mark their bills to FY 19 levels.

For more information on raising the caps, please view the Coalition for Health Funding’s one-pager on the issue.

Animal Research

Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) and Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) have reintroduced the “Preventing Unkind and Painful Procedures and Experiments on Respected Species Act,” or the PUPPERS Act (H.R. 1155). The bill would end canine research at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Last year, ASPET was successful in preventing a hearing from being held on the bill. Shortly thereafter, the bill’s lead sponsor, former Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA), lost his reelection bid. The new version of the bill is substantially similar to the previous iteration.

ASPET is also monitoring the possible re-introduction of another bill aimed at curtailing animal research, the “Primate Protection and Research Modernization Act of 2018 (S. 3773).”  Introduced last year by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), the bill would limit research on non-human primates. Though the bill has not been re-introduced, there is a high likelihood that the bill will be re-introduced this legislative session. In that event, ASPET is already working with its partners to draft a response to the bill.

Sexual Harassment

In 2018, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report on sexual harassment in STEMM fields. According to its authors:

This report reviews the research on the extent to which women in the fields of science, engineering, and medicine experience sexual harassment and examines the existing information on the extent to which sexual harassment in academia negatively impacts the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women pursuing scientific, engineering, technical, and medical careers. It also identifies and analyzes the policies, strategies and practices that have been the most successful in preventing and addressing sexual harassment in academia.

In response to the report, both NIH and NSF undertook efforts to modify its own sexual harassment policies. Additionally, the new chair of the House Science, Space and Technology committee, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) introduced the “Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2019 (H.R. 36).” The bill directs NSF to award grants to institutions that tackle the issue of sexual harassment.

Late last month, the NIH released its own update on its plans to address sexual harassment in science. FASEB responded with a letter praising NIH for its recognition of the issue, but expressing concerns about the privacy of individuals who share information with NIH.

Additional Items

  • Earlier this month, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced his resignation. Dr. Norman E. (Ned) Sharpless, director of the National Cancer Institute, will serve as acting commissioner.
  • ASPET reappointed Dr. Stevin Dworkin of Western Illinois University as delegate to the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC).
  • On March 6, the House Science Committee convened a hearing entitled “Maintaining U.S. Leadership in Science and Technology.” The Committee heard testimony from Marcia McNutt, PhD, President of the National Academy of Sciences; Patrick Gallagher, PhD, Chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh; and Mehmood Khan, MD, Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer at PepsiCo. All three witnesses emphasized the importance of federal investments in research, training the next generation of scientists and engineers, and creating a welcoming environment for international students and scholars.

 

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