ASBMB president calls five-term U.S. senator a “true statesman”
ROCKVILLE, Md., October 15, 2012 -- The late Arlen Specter, a former five-term U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and a longtime champion for biomedical research, was remembered Monday for his bipartisan leadership by members of the research community.
“America lost a true statesman, and the biomedical research community lost one of its biggest champions over the past 15 years,” said Jeremy Berg, president of American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, upon hearing the news that Specter had died Sunday of complications from non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Berg continued: “Senator Specter was a long supporter of the scientists who work every day in America’s labs trying to understand biology and the underlying mechanisms behind the diseases that affect millions of Americans. Never was his commitment stronger than in the years following his cancer diagnosis in 2005.”
In 2005, ASBMB gave Specter, who was at the time a Republican but who later switched parties, the society’s Howard K. Schachman Public Service Award for reaching across the aisle to promote increases in support for the National Institutes for Health. Specter shared the award with Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.
Specter’s support for biomedical research culminated in 2009, when he essentially single-handedly negotiated the $10 billion investment in NIH as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Specter also was instrumental in the creation in 2010 of the Cures Acceleration Network at the NIH, which was authorized to advance the development of high-need cures and reduce barriers between basic research discoveries and the marketplace.
“In a time when politics has become bitterly partisan,” Berg said, “Senator Specter’s tenure in the Senate should serve as a reminder of how America’s leaders can put aside partisan differences to do what is right for the American people.”