Congress Passes Zika Funding BillCongress passed and President Obama signed a 10-week continuing resolution, which includes $1.1 billion for Zika virus research.
ASM Statement on Recent Biosafety Lapses
The following statement signed by ASM President Timothy J. Donohue, Ph.D. and Chair of the Public and Scientific Affairs Board, Ronald M. Atlas, Ph.D. was sent to ASM members on July 21:
The recent events at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which are documented in the report below, reveal significant lapses in biosafety, biosecurity, oversight and compliance with the Select Agents and Toxins regulations. At every level, in teaching, research, and diagnostic laboratories, microbiologists must take all steps possible to guarantee biosafety, to protect themselves, their co-workers, and the broader public from microorganisms that can cause disease. Microbiologists who work with dangerous pathogens have a responsibility to understand and comply with biosafety and biosecurity regulations. As such, ASM members must ensure that they are acting with the highest level of responsibility and accountability in their laboratories.
Microbiologists engage in activities that are essential to detect, respond to and prevent infectious diseases. This work must be conducted as safely as possible. Toward that end, we urge microbiologists to review their laboratory procedures and to ensure that they are compliant with biosafety regulations and best practices. Microbiologists and institutions should regularly inventory all areas of storage to maintain an accurate and up-to-date inventory of materials to be certain there are no unaccounted for infectious agents and toxins. Identified lapses in biosafety and biosecurity must be reported promptly to the appropriate institutional authorities. Public health and safety are of the utmost importance and we have a professional responsibility to maintain the public trust.
The following is a link to the CDC’s July 11 Report on the Potential Exposure to Anthrax http://www.cdc.gov/od/science/integrity/docs/Final_Anthrax_Report.pdf.
ASM Letter Regarding Proposed DOE Authorization Bill
In June, ASM sent a letter to Representative Lamar Smith, Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, expressing concern with a proposed house authorization bill; The Department of Energy Research and Development Act of 2014, and provisions included that would make significant cuts in research and development (R&D) funding at the Department of Energy (DOE.) The letter highlighted the detrimental impact such cuts would have on environmental and energy research and microbiology, and urged Congress to “reconsider the severe budget cuts and BER limitations included in this legislation.” Public Affairs staff will continue to closely monitor the proposed legislation. A copy of the letter can be found on the Public Affairs webpage at: http://www.asm.org/index.php/component/content/article/137-policy/documents/statements-and-testimony/92983-doe-fy2015-bill
ASM Signs onto a Letter Regarding the ADAPT Act
The ASM joined 23 other organizations in signing a letter to the House Energy & Commerce Committee urging them to act promptly on the Antibiotic Development to Advance Patient Treatment (ADAPT) Act, which would carry out the PCAST recommendation to establish a new limited population approval pathway for antibiotics to treat serious or life-threatening infections where an unmet medical need exists. To read the letter go to: http://www.asm.org/images/ADAPT-Act_-FINAL.pdf.
ASM Letter Regarding the Accelerating Biomedical Research Act
On July 21, the ASM sent a letter to Senator Tom Harkin, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education regarding a bill that he is considering introducing. The bill, “Accelerating Biomedical Research Act” would increase funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The letter is available on the Public Policy web page at: https://www.asm.org/index.php/publicpolicy-2/statements-testimony/137-policy/documents/statements-and-testimony/93012-abra-2014.
In June, the fiscal year (FY) 2015 appropriations process continued to progress. A highlight of the spending bills that have advanced and are of importance to the ASM membership include:
In late May, the House approved its FY 2015 CJS bill that would fund research and related activities at the NSF with $5.97 billion and also $201 million for major research equipment and facilities.
For up to date information on the FY 2015 appropriations process, visit the ASM Public Affairs, Public Policy webpage at: http://www.asm.org/policy.
ASM Supports National Science Foundation Funding
The ASM as member of the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) supported a coalition statement sent to members of the House Committee on Appropriations, Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee, in support of their fiscal year (FY) 2015 appropriations bill. The bill would provide a 3.3 percent increase for the National Science Foundation (NSF) over FY 2014, and 2.1 percent increase over the president’s budget request. The letter thanked Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Ranking Member Chaka Fattah (D-PA), for working together on a bill that; “places a high priority on basic science funding at the National Science Foundation (NSF)” and also urged Congress to support these funding levels in their final FY 2015 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) appropriations bill.
A copy of the letter and up-to-date information on FY 2015 appropriations as well as other funding issues of importance to microbiology can be found on the ASM Public Policy webpage at: http://www.asm.org/policy
Public and Scientific Affairs Board asm2014 Activities
During asm2014 in Boston, Massachusetts, the Public and Scientific Affairs Board (PSAB) sponsored a number of activities for attendees. This included the Federal Funding Opportunities Breakfast, which allowed attendees t to learn about funding opportunities available to microbiologists from several federal agencies that support biomedical, environmental and life sciences research. Presenting at the breakfast were representatives from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences from the National Institute of Health, the Office of Biological & Environmental Research, U.S. Department of Energy and the Division of Environmental Biology, National Science Foundation. The presentations from the breakfast are available on the Public Affairs web page at: http://www.asm.org/index.php/public-policy/93-policy/92912-ffb.
The PSAB also sponsored a number of special interest sessions at the meeting including: Women Microbiologists in Developing Economies: The Obstacles and the Opportunities, organized by the PSAB Committee on Women in Microbiology, Microbial Interactions in a Changing Climate, organized by the Committee on Environmental Microbiology and the Committee on Agricultural and Food Microbiology, Drug Resistance in Populations with Health Disparities, organized by the Committee on Microbiological Issues Impacting Minorities and Navigating the 21st Century Workplace: Key Drivers for the Laboratory Industry and Profession organized by the Committee on Professional Affairs. These sessions may be viewed at http://www.asmonlineeducation.com/.
The session, “Navigating the 21st Century Workplace: Key Drivers for the Laboratory Industry and Profession,” was co-convened by former PSAB Professional Affairs Committee chair Vickie Baselski and Amy Leber. The laboratory medicine profession is entering into an unprecedented time of change and the rapid introduction of new technologies and emergence of new pathogens against a back drop of increasing financial restrictions and new payment models impose significant challenges upon practicing clinical laboratory scientists. This session provided a discussion of skills required for the future, how to develop them, as well as an update on emerging regulatory issues. P.A.C.E. credits are available for this session; to access the ASM C.E. Portal, click the following link https://ce.asm.org/help.aspx.
The PSAB also sponsored a booth in the ASM Services area. The booth allowed Public Affairs staff to meet asm2014 attendees and hear what issues are important to microbiologists. Booth visitors expressed concern about federal funding for science, communicating relevant scientific information to lawmakers, emerging infectious diseases, inclusion of women and underrepresented minorities in the STEM fields and electing more scientists to Congress. For more information about the work that the Office of Public Affairs does on behalf of ASM members, go to: http://www.asm.org/policy.
ASM General Meeting Minority Travel Grants Awarded
During the asm2014 General Meeting the awardees of the ASM General Meeting Minority Travel Grant were honored at a reception organized by the Committee on Microbiological Issues Impacting Minorities (CMIIM). The reception was attended by members of the committee and the leadership of ASM.
The ASM General Meeting Minority Travel Grant program offers travel grants to increase the participation of underrepresented minority (URM) groups in the ASM General Meeting. The following 2014 awardees were introduced at the ASM General Meeting:
Ángel M. Casanova-Torres, M.S., University of Wisconsin at Madison
Greetchen Díaz-Muñoz, Ph.D., University of Nebraska
Ashley N. Haines, Ph.D., Norfolk State University
Dawn Erica Lewis, Ph.D., Florida A&M University
Yusuf O. Omosun, Ph.D., Morehouse School of Medicine
Jennilee B. Robinson, Ph.D., University of the Virgin Islands
Candace Ford Rouchon, M.S., New York Medical College
The ASM General Meeting Minority Travel Grant program selects post-doctoral scholars and graduate students from underrepresented minority groups in the microbiological sciences or faculty from Minority Serving Institutions. Each grantee is offered funds to defray expenses associated with travel to the ASM General Meeting. The grants are supported by the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health. For more information go to the ASM web page: http://www.asm.org/asmgmminoritytravelgrant.
ASM Resource Posted on CDC Salmonella Outbreak Investigation Notice
On June 5, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released findings from a collaborative investigation with public health officials in several states to investigate human Salmonella Typhimurium infections linked to exposure to clinical and university teaching laboratories. The report, titled “Human Salmonella Typhimurium Infections Linked to Exposure to Clinical and Teaching Microbiology Laboratories,” provides documents in their Key Resources section, including a 2012 ASM report Biosafety Guidelines for Handling Microorganisms in the Teaching Laboratory: Development and Rationale, authored by Elizabeth Emmert and the ASM Task Committee on Laboratory Biosafety. To access the Key Resource section, please go to http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/typhimurium-labs-06-14/key-resources.html.
ASM Comments on Clinical Laboratory Fees for 2015
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) held a meeting July 14 to hear public recommendations for reimbursement of new Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) laboratory codes. Robert Jerris, PSAB Professional Affairs Committee chair, addressed the panel with fee recommendations for test codes for nucleic acid detection of gastrointestinal pathogens, human papilloma virus, and a new combined HIV antigen-antibody test. A detailed rationale for ASM's recommendations for the proposed fees can be found at http://www.asm.org/index.php/publicpolicy-2/statements-testimony/137-policy/documents/statements-and-testimony/93008-2014-fee
Detailed information posted for the public meeting is also available online at http://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Medicare-Fee-for-Service-Payment/ClinicalLabFeeSched/Laboratory_Public_Meetings.html.
ASM Attends CCCLW June Meeting
PSAB Professional Affairs Chair Robert Jerris joined members of the Coordinating Council on the Clinical Laboratory Workforce (CCCLW) in their June 30 organizational meeting in Chicago, IL. Among the key topics for discussion was a new focus on the impact of the laboratory workforce on patient outcomes. To see more of the projects CCCLW member organizations are undertaking, go to http://www.ccclw.org/.
ASM and CLSI Release Joint MSSA and Ceftriaxone Etest Report
The PSAB Committee on Laboratory Practices, in conjunction with the Clinical Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI), have prepared a joint release titled “MSSA and Ceftriaxone Etest issue: CLSI & ASM White Paper” to discuss problems with reporting ceftriaxone resistance in methicillin sensitive S. aureus (MSSA) isolates. The document reports the discordant results of side by side testing of MSSA isolates with Etest strips versus the reference broth microdilution method. To read the report, please go to http://www.asm.org/images/PSAB/MSSA-Etest.pdf.
Coming Soon! New ASM Legislative Action Center
The Public and Scientific Affairs Board (PSAB) is in the process of updating and streamlining ASM advocacy efforts, including the upcoming debut of a brand new Legislative Action Center that will provide ASM members updates on legislative and congressional activities of importance to the microbiological sciences. Look for an email soon about the launch and new site! When ASM sends out legislative alerts, members will receive an emailed message with direct access to the new site, easy to access contact information for their congressional representatives and instructions on how to send a personalized letter to their elected officials. ASM’s advocacy efforts can only succeed when members are involved and active in the process. The Office of Public Affairs will continue to post updates on the FY 2015 budget process at: http://www.asm.org/policy.
Congress Passes STEM Legislation
On July 14, the House approved with bipartisan support, the STEM Education Act of 2014 (H.R. 5031.) Drafted by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, the act would strengthen and enhance existing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education programs and activities at agencies including the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Department of Energy (DOE.) For additional information on this and other legislation impacting the microbial sciences and the ASM membership, visit the Public Affairs webpage at: http://www.asm.org/policy
Give Input on a Proposed NIGMS Research Funding Program
As part of National Institute of General Medical Sciences’ (NIGMS) ongoing efforts to explore ways to increase the efficiency and efficacy of its funding activities, they are planning a pilot program that would support an investigator’s research through a single, unified grant rather than separate project grants. NIGMS just issued a request for information that outlines the proposed program and solicits the scientific community’s input on it. Comments are due by August 15.
The program, named the Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA), would consolidate all of the NIGMS funding to a participating investigator in one 5-year grant. This is longer than the current average for an NIGMS regular research grant (R01) of close to 4 years. MIRAs would also have higher median direct costs than those of current NIGMS R01s.
As NIGMS Director Jon Lorsch notes in a Feedback Loop post on the proposed program, MIRAs are not intended to be a method for supporting only a perceived elite group of investigators or promoting only high-risk, high-potential-reward research.
The hope is that this new approach will increase investigators’ funding stability and their flexibility to follow important new research directions as opportunities and ideas arise. MIRAs could also reduce the time investigators spend writing and reviewing grants, in part by not requiring them to break their work into smaller, strictly prescribed increments. The overall goal is to increase scientific productivity and improve the chances for important breakthroughs.
NIGMS Announces “Stories of Basic Science to Medical Advances” Challenge
The NIGMS announces a challenge titled "Stories of Basic Science to Medical Advances.'' This Challenge aims to track medical advances stemming from NIGMS-supported basic science. NIH seeks the public's help in capturing NIGMS' progress toward its strategic goal to "advance awareness and understanding of the basic biomedical research enterprise, including its value, requirements, and potential impact.'' The goal of the Challenge is to identify past advances that are serving (or have served) to improve human health and well-being but not ongoing studies that may, in the future, have a major impact. NIGMS will use these examples to help inform the historical context of scientific breakthroughs and NIGMS. The Federal Register notice on the challenge is available at: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-07-23/html/2014-17330.htm.
Minority Microbiology Mentor Newsletter
The July issue of the Minority Microbiology Mentor Newsletter has been published by the Committee on Microbiological Issues Impacting Minorities. To read the newsletter, go to: https://www.asm.org/index.php/publicpolicy-2/newsletters/minority-microbiology-newsletter/2-uncategorised/93010-mmm-7-14.
ASM Sponsors Golden Goose Award
The ASM has agreed to sponsor the 2014 Golden Goose Award, an award that recognizes scientists and engineers whose federally funded research has had significant human and economic benefits. This will be the second year that ASM has sponsored the award. For more information about the award, go to: http://www.goldengooseaward.org/.