WASHINGTON, DC -- “Without research, we wouldn't have breakthroughs. It's not about discovery for the sake of discovery, but for the sake of better health and saving lives,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (IA) (pictured at left), at a Capitol Hill event Tuesday honoring him, Sen. Arlen Specter (PA) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (MA).

The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, Research!America
and the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation recognized the senators for their leadership for research and for highlighting the importance of a shared commitment to making research for health a high national priority.

The awards ceremony at the Russell Senate Office Building was emceed by Elias A. Zerhouni, MD, former National Institutes of Health director. It was attended by distinguished scientists, Nobel laureates, members of Congress and other leaders in health research community, including about 250 leaders from the bio-medical research community. Distinguished attendees included Dr. Francis Collins, noted geneticist and nominee for NIH director, and Nobel Laureate Dr. Joseph Goldstein.

Although Senator Kennedy was unable to attend, his lifelong friend and FNIH board member Mrs. William McCormick Blair accepted on his behalf. “Teddy deeply appreciates the award and has deep respect for the impact of Research!America. He loved Mary Lasker, and he created the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health,” she said. “As a nation we have an extraordinary scientific imagination. We can change the major causes of death, disease and disability and enhance our quality of life.”

In his remarks, Senator Harkin spoke of his commitment to NIH. “I have always believed that it is a prime responsibility of the federal government to support the National Institutes of Health,” he said. “In the six decades since World War II, the United States has been the global leader in science, biomedical research and technological innovation. But our work is not over yet, which is why I will continue to work to fund medical research. “The next great challenge is solid funding for 2011. We’re going to need all of your advocating in the next year so we don’t fall off the (funding) cliff. Redouble your efforts!”

“Senator Harkin's prioritization of our investment in medical research, including embryonic stem cell research, and his unwavering support for NIH has helped to ensure the future of basic science and the promise of cures through clinical advances,” noted Alfred Sommer, MD, MHS, Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation chair.

Senator Specter, in his acceptance remarks, spoke about federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and his plans for future NIH funding.

“I am honored to be recognized, along with my esteemed colleagues Senator Harkin and Senator Kennedy, for my work in the Senate to advance health and medical research. Health is one of our nation's greatest capital assets and I will continue to fight to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health and to press forward in seeking cures for the maladies of the world.”

The Honorable John Edward Porter, Research!America chair, said, “During his 30-year career as a senator, Arlen has been a tireless advocate for research to improve lives, exhibiting a masterful ability to translate medical research and scientific advances into language that leaders and the public can understand.”

Charles A. Sanders, MD, FNIH chair, said, “Senator Kennedy has set the stage for realizing the hope for a healthier nation with his courageous support of NIH and other federal research agencies, embryonic stem cell research and mental health, and his advocacy for reducing health disparities.”

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The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health was established by the United States Congress to support the mission of the National Institutes of Health: improving health through scientific discovery in the search for cures and is a leader in identifying and addressing complex scientific and health issues. It expedites or facilitiates the potential for new discoveries by convening innovative public/private collaborative partnerships that leverage the diverse strengths of stakeholders including those from the scientific and research community, industry, academia, advocacy groups, foundations and philanthropy. See Contact: Rich Scarfo, 301-496-9921,

Research!America is the nation’s largest non-profit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority. See
Contact: Eva Maciejewski, Media Relations Specialist, 703-739-2577 ext. 44,

The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation and its programs are dedicated to the support of biomedical research toward conquering disease, improving human health and extending life. See Contact: Katie Barnes, Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, 212-286-0222.

Rich Scarfo
Foundation for NIH