ASN Goes to NIH and the VA

ASN President Bruce A. Molitoris, MD, FASN, President-Elect Sharon M. Moe, MD, FASN, Councilor Raymond C. Harris, MD, FASN, and Research Advocacy Committee members in June visited with National Institutes of Health (NIH) leaders and staff for “Kidney Research Advocacy Day.”

NIH’s 27 institutes and centers are engaged in global health research and research training activities. For the second straight year, ASN met with senior staff at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities, and Center for Scientific Review. ASN also had a first-ever meeting with senior staff at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Research and Development.

Recurring concerns discussed in the meetings included 1) available grant funding opportunities that have not been optimally pursued by kidney community investigators, 2) the importance of collaboration among NIH institutes and other federal agencies on kidney-related studies and research training, 3) the importance of including patients with kidney disease in kidney-related clinical trials, and 4) the need to step up advocacy to protect NIH from continued budget cuts.

Since the doubling of NIH’s budget ended in 2002, NIH’s budget has essentially been undoubled after adjusting for biomedical research inflation. As a result, research budgets have been slashed, programs have been axed, and grant application success rates have fallen from 31.2% in 2002 to nearly 17% in 2012.

This past April, patient advocates from the American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) and Dialysis Patient Citizens (DPC) joined ASN leaders for meetings with nearly 60 congressional offices in the House and Senate to advocate for the society’s top policy priorities, including more funding for kidney research.

Here are some takeaways from each of the Kidney Research Advocacy Day meetings.

NIDDK Director Dr. Rodgers greets Dr. Leonard from ASN as the meeting begins.

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ASN President-Elect Dr. Moe inquires how CSR assigns grant applications to study sections.

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NIDDK’s Dr. Star (second from left) poses for a picture with (left to right) Dr. Feldman, Dr. Molitoris, and Dr. Sedor from ASN.

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ASN’s Dr. Sharma (back right) addresses concerns about the decreasing number of R01 investigator-intiated grant applications.

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National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

Dr. Molitoris, Dr. Moe, and Research Advocacy Committee members met with NIDDK Director Griffin P. Rodgers, MD; Kidney, Urologic, and Hematologic Diseases Division Director Robert A. Star, MD; and other senior staff. In addition to the concerns mentioned earlier, ASN and NIDDK discussed better communication with the public about institute initiatives, plans, and research opportunities, and additional opportunities for NIDDK involvement and participation at Kidney Week.

National Institute on Aging (NIA)

Research Advocacy Committee members met with NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, MD, Deputy Director Marie A. Bernard, MD, and other senior staff. ASN and NIA discussed future and current studies related to the deleterious effects of kidney disease on aging, and additional opportunities for NIA involvement and participation in ASN activities.

National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)

Dr. Molitoris, Dr. Moe, and Research Advocacy Committee members met with NIMHD Office of Extramural Research Administration Director Francisco S. Sy, MD, DrPH, and Irene Dankwa-Mullan, MD, in the Division of Scientific Programs. As part of NIMHD’s mission, the institute “plans, reviews, coordinates, and evaluates all minority health and health disparities research and activities of the National Institutes of Health.” NIMHD is aware of the enormous racial and ethnic disparities in kidney disease and described institute programs available to help minority kidney scientists with professional development and research. More information is available at http://www.nimhd.nih.gov/.

Center for Scientific Review (CSR)

Dr. Molitoris; Dr. Moe; and Research Advocacy Committee members met with Donald Schneider, PhD, Senior Advisor to the Director of CSR; Division of Physiological and Pathological Sciences Director Seymour Garte, PhD; and other senior staff members. Topics discussed included the decreasing number of R01 investigator-initiated grant applications, ensuring the participation of kidney experts on study sections, the review of kidney-related applications by the best sections, and a possible CSR informational session on the grant application review process at Kidney Week.

VA Office of Research and Development (ORD)

Dr. Harris and Research Advocacy Committee members met with ORD Biomedical Laboratory Research & Development Acting Director Ronald Pzrygodski, MD, and a number of other senior staff members. ORD noted that more than 200,000 veterans have kidney disease and that a preponderance of that population has type 2 diabetes. ORD described a number of current studies that patients with kidney disease stand to benefit from, including the Million Veterans Program to study how genes affect health. ORD is interested in continued collaboration with ASN.

Table 1 lists ASN Research Advocacy Committee members.

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Please check back for information in the next Kidney News about new federal grant funding opportunities for kidney investigators.