13 June 2012. In the fight against Alzheimer's disease (AD), the researcher may just be heard the loudest. If only the community spoke with one voice, cacophony would turn to chorus. That's why some of them have put together a website—ResearchersAgainstAlzheimer's—to unify them in their drive to bolster government funding of research. "While we may oftentimes disagree about some of the science-related aspects, I think we can all agree that we need to work together to urge Congress not only to fund Alzheimer's disease research, but also continue to fund it at higher levels," said Bruce Lamb of the Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, a co-director of the site.
Researchers have for a while been calling for $2 billion per year to make progress toward the 2025 goal stipulated by the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease (see ARF related news story). At present, annual NIH funding for AD stands at $450 million. The $50 million additional NIH funding that went directly to AD researchers this year pales in comparison. While an additional $80 million in the President's budget proposal for 2013 (see ARF related news story) will help, it may take some extra convincing before funding is approved in these tough fiscal times, Lamb says.
Like its sister website, the USAgainstAlzheimer's Network (USA2), ResearchersAgainstAlzheimer's (RA2 for short) aims to lobby Congress for funds. RA2’s purpose is to be the megaphone for researchers in particular, said George Vradenburg, who heads USA2. "Researchers are the most authoritative voice on a number of issues," said Vradenburg. Congressional polling on his site revealed that lawmakers want to hear from the people that do the science. "We can speak to the need for increased funds, as well as to reforms within the federal government to speed the development of effective therapeutics," said Lamb. With that in mind, he and Vradenburg teamed up.
The site went live on 10 May 2012 and has 180 members, with the goal of hitting 1,000 by year's end. Researchers from all walks of Alzheimerology are welcome, said Lamb, whether they are in psychiatric, neurologic, or basic science, are graduate students or heads of a department.
By signing up, members promise to engage in some form of advocacy twice each year, whether by writing an op-ed piece, signing a letter to Congress, or explaining research findings to the press. "The biggest problem I see is getting public support for Alzheimer's research," said Chad Dickey, University of South Florida in Tampa, who is a member of RA2 (and no relation to this reporter). "We talked to so many lay people who think Alzheimer's is a normal part of aging. That is a misconception we want to eliminate," he said.
As the group takes shape, members will likely attend meetings in Washington, organize events on Capitol Hill, and mingle with members of Congress. All of these things can be done individually, but when a whole organization of researchers is behind an action, it becomes more powerful, said Lamb.
A letter to Senator Tom Harkin sent out yesterday from the group will go on the RA2 site, along with subsequent information about group events, news, etc. Readers can view the website and sign up here.—Gwyneth Dickey Zakaib.