Brandeis goes to Capitol Hill

The vast majority of biomedical science research done in the United States is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). This research funding educates thousands of Ph.D. candidates in the U.S. each year that go on to do health research at universities, work in private sector biotechnology companies or become educators (among many other things). Given the tremendous impact government funded biomedical research has for advancing medical science, educating the workforce and underpinning the biotechnology sector, it is important for the American economy that government officials continue to support federal funding for NIH and NSF over the long-term.

Capitol HillOn September 12th a Brandeis University delegation was invited to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. by the Coalition for Life Sciences to meet with Massachusetts representatives. The purpose of the delegation was to advocate for continued support for biomedical research funding in this time of national financial uncertainty. Massachusetts receives the 2nd most NIH funding after California, an impressive statistic considering that California has approximately 5 times the population of the Bay State and highlighting how important the academic and biotechnology sectors are to the local economy.

MarkeyThe delegation consisted of a Brandeis graduate student (Mike Spellberg), a Brandeis post-doctoral researcher (Tilman Kispersky) and a licensing associate from the Brandeis technology transfer office (Christine Taft). These three people are at different stages of their scientific careers and will likely participate in the scientific community and the Massachusetts economy in very different ways. However, they all shared a history of funding from the NIH. Throughout the day on Capitol Hill the Brandeis team met with Congressional staffers including those from Rep. Barney Frank’s and Senator John Kerry’s offices. During meetings, the Brandeis team thanked the staff for the strong support from Massachusetts elected representatives for the NIH over the years. Specific funding priorities, like additional support for young investigators, were suggested and discussed as highly effective methods to support biomedical research long-term. At the end of the day, the delegation had a meeting with Rep. Edward Markey’s staff. Brandeis is a part of Rep. Markey’s district and we were fortunate enough to meet the Congressman personally. Rep. Markey noted his interest in Neuroscience and talked about his strong support for adequate funding for the NIH. In return, we extended an invitation to Rep. Markey to visit research labs at Brandeis.

Throughout the day and with the training from the Coalition for Life Sciences, the delegation learned about public policy, science advocacy and got an inside view of how legislation is crafted and federal funding decisions are made. The opportunity to advocate for science and science funding on behalf of Brandeis and the research community was an excellent experience.

Frances Colón named deputy science advisor to Clinton

Frances Colón (PhD ’04, Neuroscience) has recently been named Deputy Science and Technology Adviser to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Colón did her graduate research at Brandeis in Susan Birren’s lab, studying the roles of growth factors in the differentiation of peripheral neurons. After leaving Brandeis, she won a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship, and has worked in the science policy arena at the State Department since then, focusing on Western Hemisphere science and environment issues.

Birren was enthusiastic about the news, commenting:

I am excited that Frances is now the Deputy Science and Technology advisor for Hilary Clinton.  This is a great and well-deserved next step for Frances.   As a graduate student in neuroscience here at Brandeis she had a deep commitment to science education in underserved communities.  I know that her knowledge, insight and enthusiasm will be valuable in shaping science policy at the national level.

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