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ASH awards first Bridge Grants to sustain critical hematology research

(Washington)- The American Society of Hematology (ASH), the world's largest professional organization dedicated to the causes and treatment of blood disorders, today announced the first recipients of the ASH Bridge Grants, a new award program designed to help hematologists continue their critical blood disease research amid severe funding reductions for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The announcement coincides with the Society's participation as a Platinum Supporter in the "Rally for Medical Research," held today in Washington, which will unite millions of Americans across the country to call on our nation's policymakers to make medical research a national priority.

"We know that continued, devastating cuts to NIH funding pose a real threat to the future of medicine and will likely cause many talented investigators to abandon biomedical research as a career path," said ASH President Janis L. Abkowitz, MD, of the University of Washington in Seattle.

To help address this crisis, ASH committed $9 million in July 2012 to create the grant program intended to provide its member researchers with critical interim support to sustain their hematology research during a time of sustained NIH budget cuts, including a $1.6 billion cut this year plus additional cuts to come over the next several years as a result of sequestration.

"While the establishment of this program represents an unprecedented financial commitment on the part of ASH, we recognize that it provides nowhere near what is needed to replace the NIH funding that has been cut for hematology research," said Dr. Abkowitz. "What we really need is for Congress to understand that medical research is a national priority, which is why it was so important for ASH to support today's rally at the highest level."

The first round of ASH's one-year, $100,000 bridge grants awarded today will allow 17 basic, clinical, and translational hematology researchers whose NIH R01 series grant applications were deemed excellent by NIH peer review but not funded due to budget cutbacks to continue their critical research on blood diseases. The Society will award at least 30 bridge grants each year over the next three years to help support recipients as they work to secure funding to allow their critical research to move forward.

Research supported by ASH's inaugural round of bridge grants spans the breadth of hematology. Funded projects range from exploring a gene signaling pathway that will allow researchers to better understand chemotherapy resistance in children with acute myeloid leukemia to exploring how red blood cells respond to oxidative stress. Other projects to receive ASH bridge grant funding include studies that seek to gain additional insight into the behavior of gene signaling in lymphoma, the role of a critical marker of blood-forming stem cells, and how proteins when modified induce dangerous arterial blood clots which are a leading cause of acute coronary syndrome and cardiovascular death.

The awards announced today represent the first of two award cycles to occur this year. The second 2013 application deadline will be April 19, and applicants will be notified of acceptance on or around July 1. Beyond the Society's financial commitment that will provide for two rounds of approximately 15 bridge grants to be awarded annually through 2015, additional awards will be supplemented by support from corporate and individual contributors. Generous support from Amgen, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, Genentech, GlaxoSmithKline, Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company, and Novartis enabled the Society to award several additional Bridge Grants as part of this first round.

The "Rally for Medical Research," backed by more than 200 partner organizations across the country, serves as a unified call to action to researchers, clinicians, patients, and other advocates to raise awareness of the need for sustained investment in the NIH to improve health, spur more progress, inspire more hope, and save more lives. ASH's support of the rally is one of many components of a multifaceted approach the Society launched last year to address devastating NIH budget cuts, which included the establishment of the Bridge Grant program, the creation of the ASH Foundation, enhanced advocacy, and increased communication to the media about the importance of federally funded biomedical research and to the ASH membership to encourage everyone to join the effort and make their voices heard.

"Through ASH's support of these 17 tremendous research projects as well as our leading role in today's 'Rally for Medical Research' we hope to convey a loud, clear message that this is time to invest not to defund science," said Dr. Abkowitz. "We will continue working hard to urge Congress to develop a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not involve further cuts to biomedical research."


Contact: Andrea Slesinski
American Society of Hematology

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