July 2012

FASEB celebrates 100 years of advancing the life sciences

Judith Bond and her personalized license plate 
Judith Bond and her personalized license plate

In celebration of its 100th anniversary, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology is increasing its focus on legislative advocacy. On May 16, the federation held its largest ever Capitol Hill Day, which brought 43 scientists to Washington to advocate for research funding. FASEB’s delegation, which included American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology members Margaret Offermann, Judith Bond and Bettie Sue Masters, visited 70 congressional offices carrying the message that investment in science is the foundation for improvements in health, economic prosperity and technological innovation. FASEB scientists urged their representatives to support FASEB’s fiscal 2013 budget recommendations of $32 billion for the National Institutes of Health and $7.3 billion for the National Science Foundation. In each meeting, they presented information demonstrating how research funding benefits the local economy and describing the impact that sequestration-triggered spending cuts would have on the research enterprise. FASEB’s message was well received, and nearly all of the congressional staff FASEB met with expressed an appreciation for biomedical research.


Xiaoxia Li winning art 
This winning image was submitted by a group that included ASBMB member Xiaoxia Li of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

Celebrating basic science
After a successful advocacy day, FASEB hosted a reception on Capitol Hill that brought together more than 200 scientists, policymakers and research advocates to celebrate FASEB’s centennial and the National Institute of General Medical Science’s 50th anniversary. The event highlighted advances in biomedical research that were made possible through federal investment in basic science. In his opening remarks, FASEB President Joseph C. LaManna reflected on the many outstanding accomplishments of biomedical research, noting that when FASEB was formed penicillin and other antibiotics had not been developed, insulin was unknown and the polio virus had not been isolated.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., the leader of a bipartisan effort to prevent cuts to NIH funding, discussed the importance of research to the economy and the role of the life sciences industry in promoting economic growth in the United States. U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen, D-Md., thanked NIGMS and the federation for their efforts to keep members of Congress informed about the concerns of scientists and stated that he looked forward to providing increased funding for the NIH in FY13. NIH Director Francis Collins offered his perspective on scientific advancements that have improved our understanding of basic science and discussed the importance of NIH funding for investigator-initiated research. Noting that the theme of NIGMS’s 50th anniversary is “investigate, innovate, inspire,” NIGMS Acting Director Judith Greenberg spoke about the need to attract and train the best scientific minds to maintain our global competitiveness.

Three Nobel laureates reflected on what it meant to them to receive NIGMS funding early in their careers. Thomas R. Cech, who shared the 1989 Nobel Prize in chemistry for discoveries regarding the catalytic properties of RNA and whose first NIGMS grant was funded at the 35th percentile, noted that improvements in our health today are the result of investments in basic research made more than three decades ago. Andrew Fire, co-recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, reflected on how his discovery of RNA interference was made possible, in part, by NIGMS’s willingness to support fundamental science. Co-winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in chemistry Roderick MacKinnon thanked NIGMS for providing his first NIH grant and explained how that led to his research using scorpion venom to understand how potassium channels work.


Stuart L. Schreiber winning art 
This winning image was submitted by a group that included ASBMB member Stuart L. Schreiber of Harvard University.

Celebrating science through art
Art also had its place in this celebration of science. Winning entries for Bio-Art, FASEB’s first biomedical image competition, were displayed during the reception. Entrants were asked to submit striking scientific images and illustrations depicting the cutting edge of 21st-century biomedical research. Among the winners were two ASBMB members: Xiaoxia Li was part of a team that submitted an image of biopsied colon tissue showing receptors critical to the control of inflammatory responses in the intestinal lining, and Stuart Schreiber’s team submitted an image of differentiated neuronal cells and neural progenitor cells studied as part of a project investigating the role of induced pluripotent stem cells in psychiatric disorders.

Celebrating the NSF
The federation also has been working to boost support for the NSF on Capitol Hill. On May 15, two members of FASEB’s board of directors participated in the 18th Annual Coalition for National Science Funding Exhibition and Reception, “STEM Research and Education: Underpinning American Innovation,” which brought together 32 scientific organizations and academic institutions to present posters on NSF-funded research and education projects. Held primarily to inform members of Congress and their staff members about the importance of NSF funding, the exhibition attracted 270 attendees, including U.S. Reps. Lois Capps, D-Calif., Hansen Clarke, D-Mich., Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii, Rush Holt, D-N.J., and Lamar Smith, R-Texas.

Looking ahead
The first half of FASEB’s centennial year has been a tremendous success, but the federation is not stopping there. As President-elect Bond stated, “FASEB will continue its advocacy with our champions in Congress and the Obama administration over the remainder of the year to achieve our goal of stable and predictable funding for biomedical research.” FASEB looks forward to working with the ASBMB community toward this goal.

Jennifer A. HobinJennifer A. Hobin (jhobin@faseb.org) is director of science policy in FASEB’s office of public affairs.

Karen R. MowrerKaren R. Mowrer (kmowrer@faseb.org) is the legislative affairs officer in FASEB’s office of public affairs.

Jennifer ZeitzerJennifer Zeitzer (jzeitzer@faseb.org) is director of legislative affairs in FASEB’s office of public affairs.


Below is a slideshow of the 2012 Bio-Art winners. You can read descriptions of each figure on the FASEB website.


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