Harold Varmus knows what makes America great! #SCIENCE #RAawards16 @ResearchAmerica

Research America hosted its annual Advocacy Awards this week, which included honoring Dr. Harold Varmus with its Legacy Award.

Dr. Harold Varmus received the Legacy award for his lifetime commitment to advancing research.  In the 20 years we have hosted advocacy awards evenings, this is only the 4th time we have bestowed the Legacy Award.  I hope you will take a moment to consider the timely challenge Dr. Varmus delivered to us all via his acceptance remarks, in which he refers to science as representing the best of what we have been and must continue to be as a nation.

Dr. Varmus made an amazing speech during his acceptance of the award promoting science and research in America. Can Varmus run for President? He actually knows what makes America great!

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Retiring NCI director Harold Varmus reports on the condition of cancer research!! #science

Check out this insightful NYTimes article/interview with Harold Varmus, retiring director of National Cancer Institute, on what he considers the current condition of cancer research.

In a letter to colleagues announcing his departure as the director of the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Harold Varmus, 75, quoted Mae West. “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor,” he wrote, “and rich is better.”

The line was characteristic of Dr. Varmus: playful and frank, not what one might expect from a Nobel laureate. But it also distilled a central question facing biomedical research today. Is the decline in funding that has shaken universities and research labs here to stay? If so, what does that mean for scientific research?

Dr. Varmus, whose last day at the cancer institute is Tuesday, recently reflected on financial constraints in science, the fight against cancer and his own efforts to remain healthy.

Read the great interview here!!!

Solutions to the funding crisis? NPR is at it again

In a series of installments (here, here, and here), NPR has been doing some much-needed reporting on the American scientific research enterprise.  As an avid listener of public radio, I have caught these stories during my morning commute… and hopefully the same is true for the general NPR community as well.

Today they report on top scientists suggesting fixes for the medical funding crisis.  From Nobel Prize winner Dr. Harold Varmus in the article:

 The funding challenges “were never, in my experience, anywhere as dramatic as they are now.”

So how do we fix this problem?  Dr. Varmus continues:

One idea is to reduce the number of young scientists being trained for careers that don’t exist, and to instead hire staff scientists to carry out more of the day-to-day lab-work that the apprentices now perform.

Other suggestions include transitioning towards an HHMI like system, funding creative ideas instead of specific proposals (where most of the work has already been done anyway).  Along with other influential scientists, Dr. Varmus and colleagues have published their suggestions for fixing the unsustainable biomedical research system in PNAS.

As for the present, the outlook is still bleak:

Maybe, eventually, the threat of losing this competitive edge will spur the U.S. Congress to address the underlying problems in the way it authorizes funding for biomedical research. But that appears to be a distant prospect. In the meantime, another ancient injunction to doctors, ‘Physician, heal thyself,’ seems apt. The research establishment will try to find a way to ease the pain, on own.

Looks like we have to fix these problems without help.  As critical thinkers, troubleshooters, and experimenters, I have faith that scientists are fully equipped to tackle these issues on their own! Thanks again to NPR for exposing the problems facing U.S. biomedical research!