|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 9, 2008
|CONTACT: James F. Jorkasky
NAEVR COMMENDS NIH DIRECTOR DR. ELIAS ZERHOUNI’S HOUSE TESTIMONY URGING PREDICTABLE AND SUSTAINED NIH FUNDING, ESPECIALLY TO TRAIN AND RETAIN NEW INVESTIGATORS AND CLINICIAN-SCIENTISTS
(Washington, D.C.) Today, the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) commended the testimony presented by National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Elias Zerhouni, M.D., at the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee hearing on the status of implementation of the NIH Reform Act of 2006. Dr. Zerhouni acknowledged that, although the law has helped NIH to streamline governance and to better plan short-term, its ability to plan medium-to-long term is limited by the lack of predictable and sustained funding increases. He cited that lack of predictable funding as the primary cause of NIH’s biggest challenge—workforce issues, specifically those related to the training and retention of new investigators and clinician-scientists.
"Invest in the talent pool first to ensure a pathway to success," he said, adding that this requires stabilizing the NIH success rate for grant awards, which he recommends as at least 30 percent. Currently, NIH projects the Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 success rate at 18 percent, the lowest level in 40 years. Dr. Zerhouni also emphasized the importance of "high risk, high reward" research, noting various funding mechanisms to support such research within the NIH common fund established by the 2006 law.
Dr. Zerhouni focused on the rapid pace of new discovery and how the research enterprise must be flexible and collaborative to meet that challenge. He acknowledged that the initial discovery of gene variants associated with Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)—made in 2005 as a direct result of the collaboration between the National Eye Institute (NEI) and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), both within the NIH—has grown to an almost-daily announcement of gene discoveries associated with a multitude of diseases. He emphasized that those discoveries must be translated into prevention, diagnostic, and treatment strategies, especially if the NIH is to conform to the new paradigm for healthcare research and delivery that is predictive, preemptive, personalized, and participatory.
The National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) is a 501(c)4 non-profit advocacy coalition comprised of 55 professional, consumer, and industry organizations involved in eye and vision research. Visit the Web site at www.eyeresearch.org.