These are turbulent times. But progress is underway.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the largest public funder of biomedical research in the world, investing more than 30 billion in taxpayer dollars to achieve its mission to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability.
There has been no more important time for the work done at NIH to be showcased than today with the coronavirus. NIH improves health by promoting treatment and prevention, contributes to society by driving economic growth and productivity, and expands the biomedical knowledge base by funding cutting edge research and cultivating the biomedical workforce of today and tomorrow.
Social distancing has become a must these days...a new study by NIH-funded researchers documents why social distancing is the best hope to slow the spread of Covid-19: The NIH Director's blog says:
For every confirmed case of COVID-19 there are likely another five to 10 people with undetected infections.
Although they are thought to be only about half as infectious as individuals with confirmed cases, individuals with undetected infections were so prevalent in China that they apparently were the infection source for 86% of confirmed cases.
After China established travel restrictions and social distancing, the spread of the virus slowed considerably.
The NIH has remarkable scientific power and understanding to put towards this novel virus. They are launching an early stage clinical trial of an investigation of a vaccine to protect against the virus. This was developed by researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and their collaborators.
This Phase I trial will look at the safety of the vaccine--which cannot cause infection because it is made with RNA, not the whole coronavirus. If follow-up studies establish the vaccine's safety and efficacy, it will then be necessary to scale up production to make millions of doses. This trial gives the world a reason to hope. If the vaccine proves safe and effective, it will likely take at least 12-18 months before it will be widely available.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the NIAID and the leading expert on infectious diseases, probably knows more about the coronavirus than just about anyone else. He has served public health in various capacities over 50 years. Dr. Fauci made the announcement this past weekend that the US should brace for 100,000-200,000 deaths from the virus. His announcement on CNN was coupled with the fact that he believes from the modeling done at NIH that millions of people in this country will contract the disease.
Why is all of this important to development professionals? Many times foundations and individual donors follow the NIH lead. There is no doubt that private investments in basic research will increase given the world's current situation. So will private investment in clinical trials. A bright light will shine down on Infectious Disease departments, Vaccine Development Centers, Public Health, Emergency Preparedness, Big Data initiatives and other related efforts at medical centers.
Private funding has been difficult to secure in the past for these areas, but now the world shares in the understanding of the importance and urgency of the work underway. That funding could come in the form of project and program support, support of medical stars who lead such efforts (endowed chairs and funds), funding for educational efforts for professionals and the general public, and support for recruitment of key people in these fields who help to ensure progress.
It should be noted that when such private investments are made, positive economic and productive impacts accrue to the region--and this will be important as the country fights back to an improved economic situation for all of our citizens.
In the past when budgets were being balanced nationally, funding for biomedical research was often cut to help reach the goal. But the research is something we all depend on, whether we are aware or not. A coronavirus pandemic highlights the important work that NIH and medical centers across the country are doing.
In operating with confidence and experience, Dr. Fauci has helped the general public to further understand the mission of NIH and the benefits that accrue to all of us. Guiding the discussions from the podium with President Trump during press conferences about coronavirus, he has firmly yet kindly conveyed troublesome information in an apolitical manner, leading to respect and admiration from the American public. He's taken bold actions to safeguard the health of millions of Americans. When he is not on the podium, people wonder where he is because he brings such credibility in such a chaotic environment.
We owe a great gift of thanks to him for his actions during this challenging time.
One gesture of gratitude and admiration is shown with the NY bakery that so fondly put his face on their cupcakes--and the cupcakes are flying off the shelves. Costco should stock them and a dollar from every cupcake should go to support recovery of those who have been affected--Americans everywhere would be buying them.