ARVO Researchers Support Increased NIH/NEI and Defense-Related Vision Research Funding During January 23 Advocacy Day

ARVO Advocacy Day Participants included (from left to right): Front Row: Debora Nickla, Ph.D. (New England College of Optometry); Suzanne Fleiszig, O.D., Ph.D. (University of California/Berkeley); Sally Atherton, Ph.D. (Medical College of Georgia); Muna Naash, Ph.D. (University of Oklahoma Health Science Center); Rajiv Mohan, Ph.D. (University of Missouri); Second Row: Michael Robinson, Ph.D. (Miami University of Ohio); Richard Harrad, FRCS (Bristol Eye Hospital, United Kingdom); Leonard Levin, M.D., Ph.D. (University of Wisconsin); Paul Bernstein, M.D., Ph.D. (University of Utah); Nancy Coletta, O.D., Ph.D. (New England College of Optometry); Joseph Carroll, Ph.D. (Medical College of Wisconsin); Not Shown: Dong Chen, M.D., Ph.D. (Schepens Eye Research Institute/Harvard Medical School); Ido Perlman, Ph.D. (Technion, Israel Institute of Technology); and ARVO staff members Joanne Angle (Executive Director), Bobbie Austin, Ph.D., and Lori Methia

As in past years, ARVO researchers were among the first on Capitol Hill in the new legislative session to advocate for increased funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), generally, and for increased National Eye Institute (NEI) and defense-related vision research within the Department of Defense (DOD), specifically. In 35 visits, the 13 domestic and international researchers, hosted by ARVO and NAEVR staff, urged Members of the 111th Congress to support NIH funding at a level of $10 billion in the economic stimulus currently being considered by the House and Senate, which echoed NAEVR’s request in a January 14, 2009, letter to President Obama’s transition team that NIH be funded at that substantial level. In that letter, NAEVR cited Research!America’s estimate that NIH has lost $8.6 billion in purchasing power over the past six funding cycles, due to biomedical inflation and the lack of a minimal three percent annual increase. Several Hill visits were with key members of the House and Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittees, with jurisdiction over NIH funding.

The researchers also urged their representatives to maintain the newly established Department of Defense (DOD) Peer Reviewed Vision Research Program, which was made a separate line item funded at $4 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 defense appropriations finalized last September. The vision community urged FY2010 funding for this program at $10 million. This request was based on the recent announcement of awards from the FY2008 Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP), in which vision researchers were awarded six grants for Advanced Technology, Clinical, and Translational Research, which could total $8-10 million once final amounts are negotiated. The ARVO members also urged funding for the new DOD Vision Center of Excellence (VCE) and Military Eye Trauma Registry at $6.5 million in FY2010 defense appropriations.

Kristin Wikelius of the office of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), an LHHS appropriator, hosted Dr. Fleiszig and Dr. Harrad

Dr. Carroll and Dr. Levin with Nicole Brown, office of Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), who serves as an LHHS and DOD appropriator and Chair of the Special Committee on Aging

Dr. Naash with Evan Feinbert, office of Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK)

Joanne Angle, who visited the Virginia delegation, joined Dr. Carroll and Dr. Levin for an update on how the day was proceeding

Dr. Chen with Diego Sanchez, office of Cong. Barney Frank (D-MA)

Danny Crouch, office of Cong. Mike Pence (R-IN), hosted Dr. Robinson

Dr. Mohan with Bob Skinner, office of Senator Christopher Bond (R-MO), who is a DOD appropriator