e-Public Policy Update - August 2013


  • ASM Legislative Advocacy Alert
  • PSAB Committee Prepares Cyclospora Guideline
  • ASM Supports Agriculture Funding
  • ASM Attends the Joint Commission Lab PTAC Meeting
  • ASM Monitors COCA Inhalation Anthrax Preparedness Presentation
  • ASM Endorses Science Laureates of United States Act of 2013
  • ASM Makes Recommendation on New CPT Code
  • ASM Signs Letter Requesting Meeting on Lab Fee Study
  • ASM Staff Attends Briefing on Genetic Testing
  • ASM Supports Agriculture Research
  • New NSF Director Nominated
  • National Science Foundation Nominates New Director
  • RFA Announcement - International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups
  • Minority Microbiology Mentor Newsletter

ASM Legislative Advocacy Alert
At the end of July, the ASM sent a legislative alert to members urging them to send messages to their Congressional delegation to communicate the vital importance of funding for research and public health. Sequestration, the across-the-board cut of 5 percent to nondefense and defense discretionary funding, took effect on March 1, 2013 and has had a negative impact on research and public health programs. The NIH reported that approximately 700 fewer competitive research project grants will be awarded while the CDC has stated that cuts will reduce support to state, local and international health programs, with devastating consequences to the health and security of our nation. The 113th Congress is in recess until September 9 and summer break is a time to meet and communicate with members of Congress or invite them to your laboratory. To read the ASM alert and to send a message go to the ASM’s Research and Public Health Advocacy Page at: http://www.asm.org/ResearchFunding   This page also includes budget status updates and helpful links to the ASM’s Legislative Action Center and a guide to communicating with Congress called, “Taking the Message to Congress.”

PSAB Committee Prepares Cyclospora Guideline
The Public and Scientific Affairs Board (PSAB) Committee on Laboratory Practices prepared A Practical Guidance Document for the Detection of Cyclospora to aid laboratory personnel in their identification of this organism, since routine ova and parasite examination often fails to detect it. The document was drafted by Marc Roger Couturier and Susan Sharp, and reviewed by the Committees on Laboratory Practices and Public Health. The multistate outbreak of cyclosporiasis began in June with two cases in Iowa, but, as of August 12, had spread to 19 states with 539 confirmed cases, including 32 hospitalizations. Cases in Iowa and Nebraska were traced to farms supplying bagged salad to restaurants, but no source has been identified in other cases. The investigation is ongoing. To see the guideline, click http://www.asm.org/images/PSAB/CyclosporaWhitePaper2013.pdf

ASM Supports Agriculture Funding
On July 30, ASM as a member of the AFRI Coalition participated in a meeting with senior staff of the House Committee on Agriculture. The coalition discussed the importance of a Farm Bill to the agriculture and scientific communities and highlighted the significance of Title VII (Research) funding, which invests in high priority research areas including specialty crops and bio-energy. The coalition urged Congress to work together to ensure a Farm Bill with adequate funding for research is passed in 2013. The coalition and ASM will follow up with staff after the August recess.    

ASM Attends the Joint Commission Lab PTAC Meeting
The Joint Commission’s Laboratory Professional and Technical Advisory Committee (Lab PTAC) met at their headquarters on August 13, with ASM and other organizations represented on the Committee. E. Blair Holladay, Executive Vice President/Chief Executive of the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) presented the topic Appropriate Utilization: Right Test, Right Time, Right Patient, Right Cost. The PTACs are an integral part of the Joint Commission’s advisory structure. By representing the views of a diverse group of professional associations and other interests and by providing expert advice, PTAC representatives assist The Joint Commission in the development and re-evaluation of standards.   To see the other organizations represented on the Lab PTAC, please go tohttp://www.jointcommission.org/accreditation/laboratory_ptac.aspx

ASM Monitors COCA Inhalation Anthrax Preparedness Presentation
The CDC Emergency Communication System’s Clinician Communication Team manages the Clinician Outreach Communication Activity (COCA) to offer conference calls, podcasts and other tools for potential emergencies and emerging health threats. Susie Sharp, Chair of the Committee on Lab Practices, Vickie Baselski, Chair of the Professional Affairs Committee, and Jim Snyder, Editor of the Laboratory Response Network (LRN) Sentinel Laboratory Protocols joined ASM staff attending a July 23 conference call on planning an effective response to a bioterrorism incident. Gillian SteelFisher, from the Harvard School of Public Health and Laura Ross, from the CDC Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response presented data on planning an effective response to a bioterrorism incident, a possible release of anthrax spores in an unidentified area.   They focused on anticipating the public’s viewpoint, their perceptions of the threat and their intended behaviors. During this webinar, subject matter experts discussed results from public opinion polls conducted between December 2012 and January 2013. To view the webcast, which may be used for continuing education credit, please click http://emergency.cdc.gov/coca/calls/2013/callinfo_072313.asp

ASM Endorses Science Laureates of United States Act of 2013
The ASM has endorsed legislation that would establish a science laureate for the United States. The legislation was introduced in both the House of Representatives, sponsored by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and in the Senate, sponsored by Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI). The legislation would establish a Science Laureate, who would be recognized for their scientific ability and achievement, and empowered to speak as a credible independent, nonpartisan public advocate on the importance of science broadly and the scientific issues of the day. The Science Laureate would be appointed by the President from nominees recommended by the National Academy of Sciences; serve for a term of 1-2 years; promote the importance and excitement of science to Americans; engage students and the public around scientific education and research while continuing their important scientific work. The position would be honorific and the laureate would also engage the American public on the central role scientific education and research plays in advancing our daily lives and driving the future success of the United States. To read the text of the legislation, go to: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-113hr1891ih/pdf/BILLS-113hr1891ih.pdf.

ASM Makes Recommendation on New CPT Code
The ASM presented recommendations to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) at its annual Clinical Laboratory Fee Schedule public meeting on July 10. The purpose of the meeting was to take input for determining payment levels for new tests for calendar year 2014. There was a single new infectious disease code, Trichomonas vaginalis detection by nucleic acid (DNA or RNA), on which ASM focused its comments. To read this recommendation, please go to http://www.asm.org/index.php/publicpolicy-2/statements-testimony/137-policy/documents/statements-and-testimony/91733-cms-13.  

ASM Signs Letter Requesting Meeting on Lab Fee Study
The ASM joined nearly a dozen members of the Clinical Laboratory Coalition (CLC) in a letter to request a meeting with the Office of Inspector General to discuss the findings and methodology of the June 2013 study entitled “Comparing Lab Test Payment Rates: Medicare Could Achieve Substantial Savings.”   Because the laboratory community was not consulted during the study, a meeting could provide an opportunity to discuss the office’s approach to the study, factors the office should consider in relation to its recommendations, and options for appropriately assessing the Clinical Laboratory Fee Schedule. To see the full study, please go to http://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-07-11-00010.asp. To view the CLC letter, click http://www.asm.org/images/PSAB/CLC-OIGMeetingRequest.PDF.  

ASM Staff Attends Briefing on Genetic Testing
The ASM attended the July 11 Capitol Hill briefing entitled “Revolutionizing the Future of Medicine: Innovations in Genomic & Genetic Testing.” The focus of the briefing was to discuss recent advances in molecular biology and genetics testing and featured Congresswoman Jackie Speier. The use of genetic and genomic testing may provide information on the chances of developing a disease based on a person's genes and individualized information on a specific disease or condition, or help physicians understand a patient's possible response to certain types of therapy. To view the briefing, go to http://www.labresultsforlife.org/briefing/

ASM Supports Agriculture Research
In July, ASM, as a founding member of the SOAR coalition, attended a meeting at the Department of Agriculture (USDA) with Dr. Catherine Woteki, Under Secretary of Research, Education, and Economics (REE) and Chief Scientist, and Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The coalition discussed current funding concerns for NIFA and the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), as well as ways for the coalition and ASM to work with the USDA to ensure that funding success stories are relayed to policymakers. Dr.’s Woteki and Ramaswamy also discussed the ongoing efforts to ensure that a full Farm Bill is passed through Congress and highlighted the importance of Title 7, the research title. The SOAR coalition will continue to communicate with the USDA during the appropriations and Farm Bill process.

Appropriations Update
On July 9 the Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Labor Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies released its FY 2014 appropriation recommendations and included funding levels for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Highlights are:

NIH: the subcommittee recommended $30,945,776 billion for the NIH, an increase of nearly $307 million over the FY 2013 enacted level, before sequestration, and $147 million below the Administration’s request.

CDC: the subcommittee recommended $7,022,769 billion, an increase of $478 million from FY 2013 enacted level and more than $378 million over the Administration’s request.

On July 10, the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee approved their FY 2014 recommendations for Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS). The draft legislation proposed funding the NSF at $7 billion, or $259 million below the FY 2013 enacted level, but $111 million more than the FY 2013 final funding level, after sequestration.

On July 10, the House also approved their spending bill for the Department of Energy (DOE), the office of Science would receive $4.7 billion, approximately $300 million below the President’s request for FY 2014. Basic Energy Sciences (BES) was funded at $1.6 billion. The Senate Appropriations Committee, however, recommended $5.2 billion for the Office of Science, the same as the President’s FY 2014 request.

In late June, the Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies approved their FY 2014 spending bill for the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) among others. The legislation would fund the FDA with a total of $2.6 billion, $96 million over FY 2013 and the Agriculture Research Service (ARS) at the USDA would receive $1.1 billion, $51 million over FY 2013. The House Committee approved $2.5 billion in FY 2014 for the FDA, and recommended $291 million for the USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), $92 million below the President’s request.

For up to date information on the FY 2014 appropriations process and other policy issues, visit the ASM public policy page at: http://www.asm.org/ResearchFunding

New NSF Director Nominated
Dr. France Anne Cordova has been nominated to become the new director of the National Science Foundation (NSF). She is currently President Emerita of Purdue University, where she served as President from 2007 to 2012. From 2002 to 2007, Dr. Cordova served as Chancellor of the University of California at Riverside, where she was a Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy. Previously, Dr. Cordova was the Vice Chancellor for Research and Professor of Physics at the University of California at Santa Barbara from 1996 to 2002. She served as NASA’s Chief Scientist from 1993 to 1996. She was on the faculty of the Pennsylvania State University, where she served as Head of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics from 1989 to 1993. Dr. Cordova served as Deputy Group Leader in the Earth and Space Sciences Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1988 to 1989 and Staff Scientist from 1979 to 1989. She is Chair of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution and a member of the National Science Board. Dr. Cordova received a B.A. from Stanford University and a Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology. Dr. Cordova is a current member of the National Science Board.

RFA Announcement - International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups
The National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation invite applications for the establishment or continuation of "International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups" (ICBG). The program is built on the observation that natural products derived from organisms in nature remain the most productive source of new therapeutics, yet the biodiversity on which discovery of these drugs depends is rapidly disappearing around the world. Consequently, the ICBG program supports international, public-private, interdisciplinary research teams in the exploration and discovery of novel compounds and extracts with potential for development as therapeutic agents for multiple disease targets, at the same time as it builds research capacity in partnering countries to support sustainable exploration and use of biodiversity and the knowledge to conserve it. These goals are advanced through fair and equitable partnership frameworks among research organizations in the U.S. and in low and middle income countries (LMICs). For more information on the Requests for Application go to: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-TW-13-001.html

Minority Microbiology Mentor Newsletter
The August issue of the Minority Microbiology Mentor Newsletter has been published by the Committee on Microbiological Issues Impacting Minorities (CMIIM). To read the newsletter click Minority Microbiology Mentor Newsletter - August 2013.