Entries for month: April 2012
by Karen A. Goraleski, ASTMH Executive Director
As we think about World Malaria Day on April 25, the Navy isn't top-of-mind, but it should be. While many, if not most, Americans don't give this much thought, U.S. military forces are at great risk of developing malaria while deployed in endemic areas. The U.S. Naval Medical Research Center in Maryland and its affiliated labs have a range of efforts that actively work to protect the health of our service-men and -women deployed around the world. Today, we honor them for their efforts in basic and applied research in infectious disease, in particular, malaria.
The Navy's Malaria Programs' activities range from discovery research to clinical trials of candidate vaccines carried out on the campus of the National Naval Medical Center. The primary objective of the Navy Malaria Program is to develop a vaccine that kills the parasite during the first few days of development, before it breaks into the blood. The program is also investigating vaccines that would limit the severity of symptoms associated with early stages. Both types of vaccines could alleviate much of the suffering caused by this parasite in tropical areas.
These efforts get an added and unique benefit from the NMRC's overseas laboratories. These overseas labs enable to study of the malaria parasite in its native habitat, and also help in global coordination of field-testing of novel vaccines and drugs with partners around the world.
The work of the NMRC is an investment in the safety of our military personnel. Gains from this program will also help those living in parts of the world where so many are sickened and die from this entirely treatable and preventable disease. Investing in malaria research is the smart thing to do for the U.S. and the right thing to do for the world.
On Friday, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) introduced S. 429, a resolution supporting the goals and ideals of World Malaria Day, April 25. Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Ben Cardin (D-MD), John Boozman (R-AR), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) signed on as original cosponsors. The resolution is meant to raise awareness about malaria and support continued leadership by the United States in bilateral, multilateral and private sector efforts to combat malaria as a critical part of the President's Global Health Initiative.
ASTMH Secretary-Treasurer David R. Hill, MD, DTM&H, FASTMH, Quinnipiac University, explained the challenge of containing communicable illnesses in a highly mobile society in WAMC Northeast Public Radio's Academic Minute. Listen to the audio clip (length: 2:29 min.) at WAMC's website.
Hill joined the faculty of Quinnipiac University's Frank H. Netter, MD, School of Medicine this year as professor of medical sciences. Hill is responsible for directing global public health education initiatives at the medical school and serves as director of the university's global public health program. Read more about Hill at Quinnipiac University's website.
The rancorous budget debates between the administration and Congress obscure the fact that our nation's leadership in science and innovation is tenuous at best if spending for research is cut drastically. The latest proposals in the House and Senate would put funding for medical research at risk, even though such research drives new businesses, new jobs and new treatments and cures for patients now and in the future. Stagnant funding for the National Institutes of Health has led to historic lows in the number of grants awarded to researchers, which will inevitably slow the pace of scientific discovery and development of new therapies and products. As health care costs continue to rise, we must be realistic about the tools we have at our disposal to bend the cost curve. Research to find cures for diseases like Alzheimer's is our best hope of preventing catastrophic growth in Medicare spending. Furthermore, the budgetary situation on Capitol Hill throws into doubt our elected leaders' commitment to global leadership in research and development, and if our leadership in that arena falters, so will our economic competitiveness overall.
Many Americans are concerned about our ability to maintain the nation's competitive edge. Research!America polling shows a majority of Americans (58%) are skeptical that the U.S. will be a world leader in science and technology by the year 2020. We urge lawmakers to keep in mind that some federal investments, like investments in medical research, will achieve goals they have set for our nation--a lower deficit, a thriving economy and a healthier population.
--The Honorable John Edward Porter
ASTMH Member Spotlight: Jessica E. Taaffe, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, NIAID*
*The views expressed here are the Society member's personal opinions and do not reflect official government policies or opinions.
Why are you an ASTMH member?
ASTMH focuses on global health through basic and clinical research and is committed to the training of scientists in the field. ASTMH membership is unique among scientific societies and allows me to take part in global health and science advocacy.
How can the Society help members like you in the early stages of your career?
Helping us identify and connect with career mentors, especially those seeking nontraditional paths or scientific careers away from the bench. For those seeking to use their PhDs in a different way, we can really use some thoughtful and creative guidance from ASTMH leaders and members.
What challenges do you face as a young, female scientist?
My generation of female scientists has the opportunity to profoundly shape the future of academic science. While some women may not pursue this career path due to family commitments--and I understand those challenges--succeeding in academia can be compatible with having a family. Women in science are now well-positioned to negotiate and successfully pursue the academic careers that allow us to "have it all," just as our male colleagues have always had.
Social media is connecting us in new ways today. Is there still a place for in-person mentoring?
Yes! I am astounded the social media's potential to disseminate information and connect people in different parts of the world. But it definitely has not replaced person-to-person mentorship. Social media cannot equal the value and benefits of direct personal contact and developing real relationships with people in this field.
As someone early in her career and at a difficult time for research funding, what does the future hold for biomedical science?
Our discoveries lead to new vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostic tools, but these discoveries occur behind the scenes, making the scientis and the scientific process less visible and more vulnerable to funding cuts. To change this, WE need to change: Scientists can and should be public and global health advocates.
How can the public/global health community raise its profile at the highest finding and policy levels?
There is much more that can be done to ensure that our voice is being heard and that our research meets the health needs of so many in the world. Here are four things we can do: 1) Increase our communication with and exposure to the public/global health community; 2) Foster direct interaction with policymakers and international development groups; 3) Publicly advocate for continued funding and support of biomedical research; and 4) Become engaged in public/global health initiatives within our own professional and local communities.
The Huffington Post features an informative and enlightening article by ASTMH Past President Peter J. Hotez, MD, PhD, titled, "The 8-Cent Solution to Improving Women's Health in Africa."
Read the article here.
Hotez is president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and director of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
The Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC), of which ASTMH is a member, and Research!America are holding a special event on Friday, April 27, in Washington, D.C., titled, "Saving Lives and Creating Impact: Why Investing in Global Health Research Works."
The U.S. government has long played a role in research and development for new global health products that have transformed communities in the poorest countries in the world and saved the lives of millions. From the eradication of smallpox to the development of game-changing HIV drugs, American efforts have been central to many global health success stories throughout history. As infectious diseases continue to impact millions of people each year, the U.S. government has maintained this commitment and its position as the pre-eminent funder of global health R&D in the world.
In this constrained fiscal environment, new evidence on the benefits of global health R&D and the cost-effectiveness of past funding is critical. In addition, new actors are increasingly engaing in global health R&D, forming a key partnership across the public, philanthropic and private sectors. This event highlights the launch of a new report from the GHTC and Policy Cures that addresses these issues by analyzing the impact of past U.S. government investments, and reviewing the role of ongoing U.S. investments in global health R&D. A high-level panel representing the U.S. government, private industry and philanthropic sectors will discuss key issues in global health R&D in light of the report's findings.
Speakers representing key U.S. agencies, philanthropic organizations and private industry groups will be announced. To RSVP, please contact Nick Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or+1-202-822-0033.