By Matt Ellsworth, Flinn Foundation
For three days at the end of February, a team of Arizona bioscience leaders visited the nation’s capital to meet with the state’s congressional delegation. This marks the fourth year in a row that champions of Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap convened with elected officials in Washington to share the latest success stories and describe some of the work ahead.
According to Martin Shultz, chair of Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap Steering Committee, “Our mission to D.C. was simple and clear: to update our hosts on progress being made in Arizona to advice our research infrastructure, to showcase what bioscience activity is occurring in their districts back home, and to thank them for their ongoing support of the state’s growing bioscience endeavor.”
Representing Arizona on the trip were 15 researchers, business leaders, university and local-government officials, and advocates from the nonprofit sector. On Feb. 27, the second day of the trip, the group visited with Sen. Jon Kyl and five of Arizona’s eight members of the House, as well as staff members from all 10 congressional offices.
“There are two things that our congressional people need to hear—especially those that have committed their support to research efforts,” said Joan Shapiro, vice president of clinical research at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. “The first thing is, ‘thank you.’
“The second,” Dr. Shapiro continued, “is what those dollars have actually achieved during the past year. Since there were representatives from different segments of our community, our representatives had an opportunity to learn first-hand what their support has done in the way of advancing the universities, healthcare systems, and businesses.”
Flagstaff Mayor Joe Donaldson noted that it was important for local leaders to explain, in person, the importance of fully funding research projects sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, so that Arizona scientists could continue their investigations, especially in translational genomics and personalized medicine.
“I was taken by the interest of our congressional delegation and their staff members in supporting us,” Donaldson said. “They understood well the effect that the absence of an inflation factor would have on the value of base grants over time.”
Along with the information-sharing sessions with the state’s congressional delegation, members of the bio team also visited the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) for a presentation by and discussion with William Heetderks, the institute’s associate director for extramural science programs. Dr. Heetderks explained the grant review and award process at NIBIB, one of the newest institutes at the NIH, and described the kinds of projects NIBIB was interested in funding.
“We were enlightened to learn that the kind of interdisciplinary arrangement we have developed among various institutions was a concept they were looking for,” Dr. Shapiro said, noting that the Paul Keller Imaging Center at St. Joseph’s is a collaboration between Barrow Neurological Institute, Arizona State University, and General Electric. “They felt such teams could bring new innovation that can be directly applied to patient care,” she added.
On the trip’s first night, the Arizonans were joined at a reception by University of Arizona president Robert Shelton and Brian deVallance, director of Gov. Janet Napolitano’s Washington, D.C. office. The two spoke about the importance of regularly updating members of Congress and their staffs about developments and achievements in their home state and emphasizing how the biosciences benefit Arizona’s economy broadly and positively impact their constituents in their everyday lives.
Attending the trip were: William C. Camp, Sun Health Research Institute; Joe Donaldson, City of Flagstaff; Bob Eaton, Arizona BioIndustry Association; MaryAnn Guerra, TGen Accelerators, LLC, and Translational Genomics Research Institute; Laura Huenneke, Northern Arizona University; Saundra Johnson, Flinn Foundation; Michael Kerski, City of Flagstaff; Christine Mackay, City of Chandler; Kathleen Matt, Arizona State University; Jim McPherson, Flinn Foundation; Joan Shapiro, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center; Marty Shultz, Pinnacle West Capital Corp./APS; Ron Shoopman, Southern Arizona Leadership Council; Shay Stautz, University of Arizona; Lynn Timmons, City of Phoenix.
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