August 2017: AAN Fights for Research Funding, Provides Support to Researchers
Promoting neurology and neuroscience research and training is fundamental to the AAN mission and a key part of our 2017 goals. Our patients are depending on us to accelerate cures for neurological conditions and translate the breakthroughs in neuroscience research to the clinic. As we move closer to the October 1 application deadline for a host of AAN Research Program awards and scholarships provided by your Academy and its partners, I'd like to share some concerns and opportunities regarding neurologic research.
We have fought hard to preserve and improve funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the BRAIN Initiative. NIH funding was among our key asks in the 2017 Neurology on the Hill and we continued to push our advocacy messages throughout the budget process. We worked across party lines for two years to ensure the inclusion of strong research funding in last year's 21st Century Cures Act, which included an increase of $4.8 billion for NIH, a 6.1 percent increase for NIH. Besides increasing the overall NIH budget, NINDS funding increased by 5.3 percent to $1.78 billion and NIA to a little over $2 billion, with $400 million more in funding for Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, which we know have a major toll on our patients and their families. We also were successful in getting a $110 million increase for the BRAIN Initiative in 2017. This represents a 73 percent increase to $260 million, which was the largest bump for any NIH program. But those successes are now in danger of being undone.
You've likely heard that President Trump has proposed a draconian $5.9 billion cut to the 2018 budget for NIH, a 21 percent reduction from 2017 funding levels. The president's budget threatens millions in funding for the BRAIN Initiative that was authorized by the 21st Century Cures Act. These cuts could be crippling. Many of us remember the havoc that researchers and their valuable work endured when Congress enacted the budget “sequester” several years ago and NIH funds were cut back. Moreover, our patients and their families are the ones most threatened by this potential downward spiral in NIH funding as their hopes for faster cures are obliterated. We cannot and will not let this occur! Both Republicans and Democrats have voiced their opposition to the president's proposed budget, and with the urging of AAN advocates, 64 representatives and 10 senators have signed letters of support for the BRAIN Initiative. Our Government Relations Committee and advocacy staff are hard at work to defend against this devastating cut. The AAN will continue to strongly oppose the research cuts in the Trump budget proposal and will include research in our requests during Neurology “off” the Hill visits during the August congressional recess.
Fortunately, what is proposed by the president can be changed or ignored by Congress-where we have the strongest influence due to the AAN's acceptance as THE experts when it comes to neurology. Our political action committee, BrainPAC, has enabled us to educate members of Congress and helped us elect lawmakers who are allies in our work. While some congressional leaders have voiced support for research funding and opposition to the president's budget, we can't take it for granted we will win this round. I strongly urge you to stay fully engaged, read the Capitol Hill Report, and watch your email inbox over the coming weeks for action alert emails from the AAN. We will need all of our members to help in countering this assault on research funding. If we ask you to contact your representative and senators to preserve federal funding for scientific research-and brain research in particular-I hope you will respond swiftly. Grassroots advocacy across interest groups throughout the country helped stymie the administration's initial American Health Care Act last spring, and we need that same passion applied to any research funding cuts.
In this uncertain time, you can be very proud of the leadership your Academy is providing regarding research funding, not only in Washington, DC, but directly within the neurology community. We are expanding our own commitments to fund the best and brightest and increase the future translational workforce for neurology research. The AAN has again teamed with the American Brain Foundation and five new partners- the McKnight Brain Research Foundation, Society of Vascular and Interventional Neurology, International Headache Society, Muscle Study Group, and The Mary E. Groff Charitable Trust- to add new scholarship awards to the 2018 AAN Research Program. Working with these and other organizations, the AAN is making good on its commitment to help support young researchers who will grow to shape the future of neurology and neuroscience, just as many of you have in your careers.
And the AAN has gone further by establishing two larger-scale career development awards that fulfill its pledge to support all types of research across all career levels and discovery stages. These three-year awards will support junior investigators interested in an academic career in neurology and provide support of $150,000 per year for a total of $450,000. Learn more about the 2018 AAN Research Program and apply for scholarships by October 1.
We are also delighted to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the American Brain Foundation that we have helped develop, support, and expand. Over that time, it has distributed more than $24 million in funding to 233 recipients. The overwhelming majority of these young researchers have gone on to secure NIH grants and academic positions, and I firmly believe the endorsement of the Academy and Foundation of their skills and potential was a valuable boost to their success. The new energized American Brain Foundation Board, with more public, high-profile members, is taking bold steps to bring researchers and donors together to defeat brain disease.
The Foundation recently launched a crowdfunding platform to raise up to $100,000 for individual researcher campaigns. This platform is available to the public, and we are eager to see how we can connect people who have a passionate desire for a cure with those who have a passionate desire to discover the cure. You can learn more, and donate or apply for inclusion as a researcher, at AmericanBrainFoundation.org.
The AAN is working at all angles to expand research that is so vital to the future brain health of our population. We need to fight together to halt any cuts to NIH and, if anything, expand funding for neurological research. While the government is at odds as to how much support it should provide to medical research, the AAN and the American Brain Foundation are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to accelerate our progress toward discoveries, treatments, and cures for neurological conditions. I urge our members to join us and make the future much brighter for our patients and families.