ARVO Advocates Among First to Request FY2022 NIH/NEI Funding Increases and Research Relief

On February 19, NAEVR managed ARVO’s first virtual Advocacy Day, which engaged members of ARVO’s Annual Meeting Planning Committee, Science Communication Training Fellows, Advocacy Awards winners, and ARVO Advocacy and Outreach Committee Chair Peter Koulen, PhD (University of Missouri, Kansas City) and Chair-elect Professor Stephanie Watson, MBBS, FRANZCO, PhD. ARVO’s domestic and international advocates made 50 calls to their Congressional delegations which included several Members assigned to key committees with NIH funding and oversight jurisdiction in the new 117th Congress.  

As in past years, the February date for the event meant that vision researchers were among the first advocates to request Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 funding increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Eye Institute (NEI), as well as $10 million in NIH grantee research relief, as follows:

  • NIH funding of at least $46.1 billion, a $3.2 billion or 7.4 percent increase reflecting 2.4 percent biomedical inflation plus five percent growth.
  • NEI funding of at least $900 million, a $64.3 million or 7.7 percent increases reflecting 2.4 percent biomedical inflation and 5.3 percent growth.
  • Support for the Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act, introduced in both the House (H.R. 869) and Senate (S. 289), that would authorize $26 billion for research relief for federal science agencies, including $10 billion for the NIH, to address setbacks in research due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commenting on the event, NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky stated, “Despite the virtual nature of this year’s event, the advocates did a great job of emphasizing the need for an inflation-plus-growth increase for the NEI by describing their vision research, especially how it has been affected by COVID-19 clinical and laboratory shutdowns. I especially want to thank the international ARVO advocates—several calling in from their country in the middle of the night—who provided their valuable global perspectives and described their collaborations with U.S. investigators. NAEVR has never had as much follow-up with Congressional offices, especially those of new Members, who have expressed an interest in supporting an NEI funding increase.”

NAEVR’s James Jorkasky and David Epstein were pleased to join ARVO’s Chief Marketing & Communications Officer Julene Joy and Manager of Science Communications and Advocacy Erin Hering in conducting the event.

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus Provides Examples of Research  

As in many Congressional visits, ARVO advocate Alison Abraham, PhD was asked in her calls with the Colorado delegation, including House Energy and Commerce Committee Member Diana DeGette (D-CO), co-sponsor of RISE Act, about vision research being conducted at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Center. Reporting back to NAEVR and ARVO that same day, Dr. Abraham and Mr. Jorkasky worked with former ARVO President J. Mark Petrash, PhD (University of Colorado Department of Ophthalmology Vice Chair of Research) to have his team provide compelling examples. By the next week, NAEVR sent a comprehensive document to the Colorado delegation offices that described how NEI-funded research at Anschutz was making the difference in the lives of patients.

Commenting on this process, Mr. Jorkasky said, “Having hosted Dr. Petrash in ARVO Advocacy Days for many years, I knew he would understand the importance of a quick and comprehensive response to these important offices. Also, several of his team members who provided examples had either participated in past AEVR Emerging Vision Scientists Days or had spoken at AEVR Congressional Briefings, so they were keenly aware of this opportunity.”