Showing posts from 2013
Dr. Richard Calderone stopped by PSPG last week to talk about the masters program in Science Policy and Advocacy at Georgetown University. Dr. Calderone is a microbiologist with an active laboratory but he also advises lawmakers on public health issues, especially those involving infectious diseases. A few years ago Dr. Calderone started the science policy masters program which was modeled after an undergraduate certificate program in policy that already existed at Georgetown. Students in this interdisciplinary masters program take courses not only on government and policy but also science classes such as microbiology, immunology and pharmacology. About 40% of graduates are currently in policy positions at places like the EPA and Research!America while many others go on to professional school (medical, dental, law). So if you're thinking about a career in science policy you might want to check out the program!

Recap: Adam Katz of Research!America- How (and why) to engage Congress as a research scientist

Adam is the Policy and Advocacy Specialist at Research!America, where he leads a variety of advocacy initiatives to make science and medical research a higher national priority. When he visited PSPG on Nov. 12th he spoke about how and why scientists, especially those in academia, should engage in the political system. Academic scientists in particular are heavily supported by federal funding and taxpayers, so it is important to initiate and maintain a dialog between researchers, politicians and the American people. Research!America has conducted numerous polls to understand the relationship between these three groups, and they have found that while Americans believe scientific research should be a top priority, the public does not have a clear understanding of how this research is funded (only a small fraction of those polled identified the NIH as the main source of basic biomedical research funding). Therefore it is important that we as scientists, taxpayers and constituents take it…

Penn Science Spotlight: Manipulating gene expression in single cells

An informal discussion with Dr. Paul Offit: recap

Dr. Paul Offit stopped by PSPG to lead a discussion on snake oil and pseudoscience and how scientists can combat misinformation. An excellent example of this issue is the ubiquitous use of dietary supplements to treat everything from colds to weight loss to depression. Dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA and are not rigorously tested for safety and efficacy and yet millions of Americans believe that multi-vitamins and supplements keep them healthy. These daily supplement capsules are packed with more vitamins than a person could possibly get from a normal diet, and yet there is no evidence that more is better. Because supplements are unregulated, what you see on the bottle is not necessarily what you get: there have been instances in which the supplement was actually 30x more concentrated than what the label claimed, and there have been cases of contaminated supplements causing death. So why is the general public so easily fooled? Because they believe they're ingestin…

Guest post: Congress shuts down America’s young scientists

Check out our guest blog on ResearchAmerica! blog-

Invited Speaker Dr. Harvey Rubin on "A Proposal for a Global Governance System for Infectious Diseases”

Michael Allegrezza
It’s easy to forget about infectious disease when one has access to quality healthcare that includes vaccines and antibiotics for most major pathogens. But infections still account for 22% of all deaths worldwide. In the developing world, it is far worse. For instance, over half of all deaths in sub-Saharan Africa are from infectious diseases. While many researchers are using science and technology to combat this problem, others have noticed that creating international policies for monitoring and controlling infectious disease would also greatly decrease mortality and minimize global outbreaks.
In June, Dr. Harvey Rubin gave a talk entitled “A Proposal for a Global Governance System for Infectious Diseases” to members of the Penn Science Policy Group. In addition running a research lab, Dr. Rubin has established himself as a critical intellect on the topic of global disease and acts as the Director of Penn's Institute for Strategic Threat Analysis and Response. …

Whole genome sequencing - a policy discussion

Whole genome sequencing and the future of medicine: A discussion of policy implications ranging from genome privacy to designer babies.Michael Allegrezza
The presidential race of 2016 was tight. That is, until information was leaked that Hillary Clinton has a genetic predisposition to early onset Alzheimer’s disease. How her genetic info was obtained is unknown; her campaign staff followed strict protocols to collect and destroy everything she touched – toothbrushes, bed sheets, cups. It may be that years before she was a candidate, a cunning opponent attended her book signings and patiently preserved the pages she penned until the moment was ripe. But the method and legality of the leak is irrelevant. Unlike in a jury case, one can’t instruct an entire electorate to ignore information that may have been illegally obtained. Thus began a new era of American politics: no longer was it simply video or written evidence of your past that was under scrutiny. Now, the DNA code prophesizing y…
Next Penn Science Group meeting will be on Tuesday, April 30th from 5:30-7pm in 1412 BRB.
Come hear about all the recent advocacy efforts by the Advocacy Subgroup!
Penn Science Policy Group at the Symposium!

For this year's Penn Science Research Symposium, the Penn Science Policy group decided to have an active presence at the event. With the help of Sima Patel and Mike Allegrezza, a poster was quickly constructed to highlight the group's activities along with the recent DC Advocacy Day.  Folks like Chris Yarosh (pictured), were generous enough to man the poster during the poster session and field questions.
Mike also played a pivotal role in introducing the poster to staffers from Sen. Toomey and Sen. Casey's office. This was done so these staffers would now be aware of the  group's presence on campus and to help set up networking events in the future.  Mike also showcased some of the other posters to the staffers to help demonstrate how NIH dollars are being used for the development of new treatments such diseases like Alzheimer's and cancer.
Another highlight of the Symposium was  having House Rep. Chaka Fattah deliver clo…

Rally for Medical Research

Check out our group at the Rally for Medical Research! (L-R), Mahlet Abera, Unknown, Mike Askenase, Mat Wimmer, David Reiner, Wade Hayes, Jenessa Smyth, Lindsay Foresee, Mike Convente, Joe Jordan, Chris Yarosh, Erika Hendel, Skye Geherin, Kevin Yu, Serena Dollive, Shaun O'Brien and Julie Crudele

The DP has a great recap of the latest Rally for Medical Research Hill Day which occurred in late September. UPenn students and postdocs made the trip down to DC to make the case for biomedical research funding to Congress and their staff. We were joined by other scientists, physicians, patients and patient advocates who helped get the message out that deep arbitrary cuts to basic scientific research funding is a short-sighted and ineffectual solution to the country's fiscal problems.

The Daily Pennsylvanian :: Students lobby legislators for science funding

Recap of visit with Rep. Charles Dent (R-15 PA) by Jenessa Smith

Charles Dent (R) 15th District PA Congressman

The meeting with Representative Dent’s staffer Lauren Kent –Stevens went very well. She was receptive to our messages of urging Rep. Dent to continue his commitment to prioritizing the NIH. She reiterated that Rep. Dent is a member of the appropriation committee that allocates funding for agencies such as the NIH and that although he cannot sign HR1301 to send to himself, he would respond favorably to the measure once it reaches his committee. In addition, Ms. Kent informed us that Rep. Dent co-chairs the House ethics committee, which informs a bipartisan group of representatives about novel and exciting research by inviting scientists and innovators to speak at meetings. Ms. Kent was interested in our research and about the grant finding and application process. Finally, Ms. Kent urged us to reach out to state legislators that do not see the importance of NIH funding in thei…
Check out the recap of our visit to DC for the Rally For Medical Research and our staff visits in the Daily Penn article-

How the Federal Sequester will damage our National Role as Medical Innovator

Penn Science Policy: <!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal.dotm 0 0 1 605 3...: Robbing Peter to Pay Paul-How the Federal Sequester will damage our National Role as Medical Innovator by: Nicole Ai...
Robbing Peter to Pay Paul-How the Federal Sequester will damage our National Role as Medical Innovator
by: Nicole Aiello, Penn Biomedical Graduate Student
The United States federal government is poised to impose arbitrary cuts on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget, as a part of a series of global budget reductions termed “sequestration.” These cuts will stifle medical progress, kill research jobs, and fail to reduce the national deficit in a meaningful way. Sequestration will trickle down to negatively impact thousands of research facilities across the country that rely heavily on federally funded grants to address the fundamental scientific questions that drive medical breakthroughs. Although the University of Pennsylvania is a private institution, biomedical research labs here operate almost exclusively on grants awarded by the NIH, which is poised to endure a $1.6 billion reduction in funding on March 1st if Congress fails to act on the looming sequestration.
The NIH dis…
Time to politicize Science Research?
By: Alana Sharp, Penn Biomedical Graduate Student
There has perhaps always been a bizarre disconnect between scientific research, the general public, and politics.  The story of measles is a fitting example.  A highly contagious viral infection first described as early as 68 AD, measles was once “as inevitable as death and taxes” (Babbott Am J Med Sci 1954).  In the 1971, Merck & Co. began marketing Maurice Hilleman’s combined vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella; today, MMRV is a CDC-recommended vaccination, and measles is no longer considered endemic in the United States.  However, due to the reverberations of a now-retracted study linking childhood vaccinations with developmental disorders, an obstinate anti-vaccination movement persists in the United States.  In the past twenty years, enclaves of children unvaccinated due to parental refusal have permitted sporadic outbreaks of the disease.  Such outbreaks have been thus far contained by …
The Sequester and its impact on Medical Breakthroughs
I believe that we are entering a new era of hope in medical research.  Seemingly every day we hear about new and exotic therapies that read more like science fiction than scientific reporting: immune cells are removed from our bodies and re-engineered to destroy cancer; patients are cured of AIDS by receiving bone marrow transplants; children are given vaccinations to prevent the development of cancers when they become adults; and massive genetic analyses are providing insight into the causes of disease and directions for developing the therapies of the future.  It is therefore deeply concerning that in the midst of such promise and growth, we stand at the edge of a deep precipice of cuts to research funding.  The United State’s federal debt has ballooned into a number that is increasingly difficult to look at, and en lieu of rational fiscal policies and bipartisan compromise, Congress has instead backed itself into a corner called …