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ASH awards grants to support critical research threatened by NIH cuts

(WASHINGTON, August 14, 2013) As federal funding cuts continue to jeopardize the progress of biomedical research, the American Society of Hematology (ASH), the world's largest professional organization dedicated to the causes and treatments of blood disorders, today announced the 12 recipients of its second round of ASH Bridge Grants. This innovative program, launched last year, supports the life-saving research of hematologists whose proposals were deemed excellent by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) but not funded due to a $1.6 billion reduction in federal funding as a direct result of sequestration.

These cuts aside, NIH's inflation-adjusted budget is 20 percent lower than it was in FY2003. According to NIH estimates, the combination of long-term flat funding and sequestration-related budget cuts will prevent the agency from funding approximately 700 competitive research project grants this year. This drastic reduction in funding will have a devastating impact on scientists who have committed their lives to careers in hematology research and will result in many talented investigators abandoning their research careers. It will also slow momentum for finding new treatments, or even cures, for some of the most deadly diseases.

"Given this harsh economic climate, instead of continuing their work searching for new treatments or cures for hematologic diseases, talented investigators who rely on NIH grants have no choice but to slow or suspend research because they no longer have the resources," said ASH President Janis L. Abkowitz, MD, of the University of Washington in Seattle. "This concerning trend ultimately threatens medical innovation and dissuades aspiring scientists from entering the field."

To help sustain crucial blood disease research during this crisis, in July 2012 ASH committed $9 million in Society funds to create this grant program, intended to provide researchers with interim support to continue their hematology research that would otherwise not be funded and ultimately to contribute to their retention in hematology investigation. ASH's one-year, $100,000 bridge grants allow basic, clinical, and translational hematology researchers whose NIH R01 series grant applications scored well but missed the funding cutoff point to continue their critical work.

The studies supported by ASH's second round of bridge grants span the breadth of hematology. Funded projects range from exploration of how computerized tomography scans may impact the use of chemotherapy for blood cancers to the study of the function of impaired gene expression in a type of congenital anemia. Other funded studies include those that seek to determine how to initiate and regulate blood clotting, improve patient outcomes after allogeneic stem cell transplantation, and better understand drug resistance to and progression of lymphoma.

"The unfortunate reality is that hematologists will require support from outside of NIH to continue moving biomedical innovation forward," said Dr. Abkowitz. "ASH was proud to provide that needed support in the form of bridge grants to nearly 30 projects in our first year. It is our hope that other medical professional societies will follow our lead in creating similar programs that will ensure that biomedical innovation does not suffer during times of financial hardship."

The ASH Bridge Grant Award Program was recently recognized as a model in the association community, earning a 2013 Summit Award from the American Society of Association Executives, the organization's highest honor, for excellence in working to create a stronger America and world.

The awards announced today represent the second of two award cycles to occur this year. The next application deadline will be November 1, 2013, and applicants will be notified of acceptance in January 2014. 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 individual donors as well as Amgen, Inc.; the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau; Genentech USA, Inc.; GlaxoSmithKline; Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company; Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; and Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; enabled the Society to award several additional bridge grants as part of this second round.


Contact: Amanda Szabo
American Society of Hematology

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