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As Congress Negotiates FY2017 Omnibus Spending Bill, Private Funding Foundations Advocate for NIH/NEI Funding and Educate about their Role in Vision Research


From left: NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky, RPB’s Diana Friedman, Prevent Blindness’s Sara Brown, Dana Acton Miller from the office of Cong. Nita Lowey (D-NY), and RPB President Brian Hofland, Ph.D. Cong. Lowey serves as Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee.From left: NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky, RPB’s Diana Friedman, Prevent Blindness’s Sara Brown, Dana Acton Miller from the office of Cong. Nita Lowey (D-NY), and RPB President Brian Hofland, Ph.D. Cong. Lowey serves as Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee.
Just a few days before the May 1 release by Congressional leaders of a Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 omnibus spending bill, on April 25 NAEVR hosted the third annual Advocacy Day for private foundations within the vision community which had met the previous day under the auspices of Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB)—see box below.

The six participants representing five organizations from across the country met with 15 Congressional offices in both the House and Senate—many of Congressional appropriations leaders engaged in negotiations on the funding omnibus. The advocates not only reinforced NAEVR’s request for a $2 billion National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding increase in FY2017, they emphasized the need for a $2 billion increase in FY2018 to continue the pattern of rebuilding NIH’s base. They also requested FY2018 National Eye Institute (NEI) funding of $800 million to save sight and restore vision.

In addition to the funding request, the foundation advocates also described their important role in the local economy and how they support researchers at academic institutions throughout the nation-including investigators in the early stage of their careers, as well as established researchers awaiting grant renewal who may need “bridge” funding to continue their work.

This year, the foundation advocates were joined in their visits by Sara Brown from Prevent Blindness, which will host its “Eyes on Capitol Hill” patient Advocacy Day on June 27.

Commenting on the day’s activities, RPB President Brian F. Hofland, Ph.D. said,

“At a time when the federal funding for NIH is in a state of uncertainty, it was important for Research to Prevent Blindness and other foundations to visit the offices of key legislators and make the case for robust and sustained federally-funded research into vision loss and eye diseases. We are grateful to NAEVR for spearheading this day of advocacy focused on this critical issue. The scientists RPB funds are usually in an early stage of their research and simply cannot carry their research to fruition without support from the NIH and the NEI—the largest sources of funding for vision research. We need strong federal funding for vision research to continue the momentum of success that is helping more Americans maintain vision throughout their lives."

The foundation advocates’ Capitol Hill visits built upon a February 17 ARVO Advocacy Day—which included a six-member track of Emerging Vision Scientists—and were complemented by the nearly 300 Congressional office visits made by members of the American Academy of Ophthalmology during its April 27 Mid-Year Forum Advocacy Day, which included the NIH/NEI support message.

Kathleen Rydar, from That Man May See, with Wendell Primus, Health Policy Advisor for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
Kathleen Rydar, from That Man May See, with Wendell Primus, Health Policy Advisor for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
Alexandra Menardy, office of Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Michael Buckley, from BrightFocus Foundation. Senator Cardin has been an ardent champion for NIH, which is located in Maryland
Alexandra Menardy, office of Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Michael Buckley, from BrightFocus Foundation. Senator Cardin has been an ardent champion for NIH, which is located in Maryland.
Amanda Joy, office of Cong. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), with Michael Crair, M.D. (E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation for the Blind/Yale University). Cong. DeLauro serves as the Ranking Member on the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee.
Amanda Joy, office of Cong. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), with Michael Crair, M.D. (E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation for the Blind/Yale University). Cong. DeLauro serves as the Ranking Member on the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee.
Hillary Beard, left, from the office of Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL), with Torrey Van Antwerp DeKeyser, right, from the EyeSight Foundation of Alabama
Hillary Beard, left, from the office of Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL), with Torrey Van Antwerp DeKeyser, right, from the EyeSight Foundation of Alabama

For the fourth year, RPB has organized a convening of private funding foundations to seek collaborative solutions in addressing big questions in vision research. Among the 33 participating organizations were key federal agencies, including the NEI, represented by Director Paul Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), represented by Jinan Saaddine, M.D., M.P.H., Team Lead for the Vision Health Initiative, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), represented by Malvina Eydelman, M.D., Director of the Division of Ophthalmic, and Ear, Nose and Throat Devices within FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH).

Participants also included several Study Committee members and sponsors for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s (NASEM, formerly the Institute of Medicine, IOM) Report entitled Making Eye Health a Population Health Imperative: Vision for Tomorrow. The group addressed implementation of the Report’s nine recommendations to transform vision impairments from common to rare and eliminate correctable and avoidable vision impairments in the United States by year 2030.

NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky participated and provided an update on federal funding for vision research and NAEVR’s advocacy efforts.