Public Release:  American Society of Hematology awards third round of Bridge Grants

American Society of Hematology

(WASHINGTON, March 24, 2014)-- The American Society of Hematology (ASH), the world's largest professional society concerned with the causes and treatment of blood disorders, today announced the names of 15 research investigators who will receive critical interim support from the Society for hematology research proposals that, despite earning high scores, could not be funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) amid severe funding reductions. The support will come in the form of one-year, $100,000 ASH Bridge Grants, awards intended to help bridge these talented ASH member investigators to their next NIH research grant by funding efforts to gather additional data to strengthen the resubmission of their applications.

The 15 noteworthy ASH Bridge Grant recipients announced today join 29 hematologists that have been granted funding since ASH committed $9 million in Society funds to create the program in July 2012. Among these 29 talented investigators, nearly one-third have already successfully obtained NIH funding.

These statistics, coupled with current budget uncertainty for NIH, demonstrate a clear need for such bridge funding programs. Following a decade of flat funding for the agency, in 2013 the NIH budget was slashed by more than 5 percent as part of mandated across-the-board federal spending cuts known as sequestration. While Congress restored nearly $1 billion to the NIH budget for fiscal year 2014, a welcome boost that will allow for the creation of an estimated 385 research grants, funding for U.S. biomedical research remains insufficient to address the dire need for treatments and cures for some of the most deadly blood diseases worldwide. The current federal appropriation to NIH is more than $700 million short of the agency's pre-sequestration budget, leading an alarming number of both new and more experienced hematology researchers to consider abandoning their careers, leaving precious scientific innovation at a standstill.

"Despite small signs of improvement, the current NIH funding climate is far from perfect and the impact on biomedical innovation has been devastating," said ASH President Linda J. Burns, MD, of the University of Minnesota. "While our early success rates suggest that the ASH Bridge Grant program is making an impact, it is still a temporary fix for a larger problem. Lawmakers must understand the damaging effect that unpredictable funding will have on research and patients and invest in biomedical research."

The studies supported by ASH's third round of bridge grants span the breadth of hematology. Funded projects range from exploration of new therapeutic targets for multiple myeloma and osteolytic bone disease, to the causes and cures of anemias and iron overload disorders and the connection between autoimmunity and cancer. Other funded studies include one that evaluates drug regimens for leukemias and lymphomas based on genetic factors and another that aims to refine prognostic tools for chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

The 15 ASH Bridge Grants announced today constitute the first of two rounds of grants to be awarded this year. Beyond the Society's financial commitment that will provide for approximately 30 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 third round.

"As biomedical researchers across specialties find that they cannot depend solely on NIH funding, we predict that alternative funding opportunities like the ASH Bridge Grants will be increasingly valuable to the progress of U.S. biomedical innovation and will help retain talented hematologists in the field during times of financial hardship," said Dr. Burns.

Visit http://www.hematology.org/bridgegrantrecipients to view the complete list of third-round ASH Bridge Grant recipients.

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To learn more about ASH's Bridge Grant Program, visit http://www.hematology.org/bridgegrants.

To make a donation, or take action in support of federal funding for biomedical research, visit http://www.hematology.org/fightnow.

The American Society of Hematology) is the world's largest professional society concerned with the causes and treatment of blood disorders. Its mission is to further the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disorders affecting blood, bone marrow, and the immunologic, hemostatic, and vascular systems by promoting research, clinical care, education, training, and advocacy in hematology. The official journal of ASH is Blood, the most cited peer-reviewed publication in the field, which is available weekly in print and online.

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