The people's agenda  pg. 2

Personalized medicine is another area that we’re very keen on. We’re very interested in understanding genetic susceptibility to heart disease and we’re doing this by sponsoring a number of genome-wide association studies, to understand the genotype of individuals who develop heart disease.

We’re putting a lot of research dollars into molecular imaging to try to image vulnerable plaque or blockages within blood vessels.

And then the whole area of biomarkers: There are some people who do not have any of the established risk factors who still develop heart disease. (They) may have risk factors that we just haven’t identified yet. So much of biomarker research will really be focused on trying to identify these new risk factors.

How has the flattening of the NIH budget affected your research agendas?

Nabel: It causes us to really think hard and focus on our priorities and on our core values.

About 70 percent of our budget goes towards investigator-initiated research… grant applications that investigators submit based on their own ideas ... We will continue to support investigator-initiated research to the best level that we can.

Second, we want to support new investigators… new faculty members who are applying for their first RO1 (research project grant)… As a third priority, this year we are helping first-time RO1 investigators who are coming in for their first competitive renewal…

NHLBI (also) has an important role to play in sponsoring randomized clinical trials, and addressing important questions that really impact public health and wouldn’t be funded by the pharmaceutical industry…

We found that the use of a daily diuretic, which costs pennies, is just as effective as the more expensive, more sophisticated anti-hypertensives. That’s not a study that a drug company is going to do. But it’s a study that we did… We felt that it was important to ask that question.

(We) are continuing to support our clinical trial networks, our large, population-based studies like the Framingham Heart Study, the Jackson Heart Study, our Hispanic Cohort Study, and… our personalized medicine program. We have many more initiatives that we would like to fund, (but)… when times get tough like this, progress in research is… slowed.

Robertson: In our strategic planning there continues to be a strong feeling that the AHA needs to be the resource for early career development, and there needs to be a commitment to and focus on the young investigator… We think that’s critical for the future, and many research stars of today, including Nobel Prize winners in cardiovascular research, got their start with an AHA grant.

Of course, we also advocate strongly for the NIH budget ... The problem is that when you have these huge fluctuations, when you suddenly come to a point where the NIH budget actually decreases for the first time in 35 years, you sometimes lose the best people to other careers. They make a contribution, but they don’t make the scientific contribution they could make in terms of the health of human beings ...

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