ASBMB responds to Biden's State of the Union address
March 2, 2022
The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology commends President Joe Biden’s emphasis on critical public health and research priorities in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night. The ASBMB stands ready to work with both Congress and the Biden administration to tackle the policy priorities the president outlined, including gathering support for the pandemic preparedness bill, passing the bipartisan competitiveness legislation and establishing the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health.
We are pleased that Biden is focusing on pandemic preparedness as the nation continues to contend with and learns lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. As we wrote in our comment letter to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in February, the U.S. must invest in the STEM workforce to better prepare for the next pandemic and strengthen the American research enterprise. We recommended modernizing the research infrastructure across the federal government, including at national labs, and at research institutions, which have proved to be vital in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and keeping the country safe. The vaccines and therapies that are allowing our economy to recover and students to return to school are the direct result of federal investments in biomedical research and the STEM pipeline.
Biden also called for support for the bipartisan competitiveness legislation, in which there are numerous provisions that we strongly support. If passed, this bill would bolster federal research agencies with sustained investments, support international talent, protect American inventions and innovations, strengthen the STEM workforce by funding minority-serving institutions and rural institutions, and combat sexual harassment in STEM. Read our full statement on the America COMPETES Act and the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021.
We also support the science and research priorities Biden brought up, namely the establishment of ARPA-H and the Cancer Moonshot Initiative. However, we urge policymakers to whole-heartedly support investigator-initiated research, which has proved to lead to breakthrough discoveries.
Biden emphasized two more issues that we have been strongly advocating for: supporting historically Black colleges and universities and addressing the mental health crisis in this country. HBCUs need more financial support to expand their STEM programs and to improve their research infrastructure. We urge policymakers to ensure that all provisions supporting HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions in the Build Back Better Act and in the competitiveness legislation are included in the final bill.
Lastly, we agree the nation must do more to address the mental health crisis facing students, especially those at U.S. colleges and universities. The Higher Education Mental Health Act of 2021 would be an important start to understanding the mental health needs of those students. We endorsed this bill in December, and we urge policymakers to pass it.