January 26, 2012

President Obama emphasizes innovation and research in State of the Union

Policy and Advocacy Officer

On Tuesday night, President Obama gave his annual State of the Union address to Congress. While the President was not as focused on using science to help the United States out-innovate the rest of the world as he was during last year’s State of the Union address, he did re-commit his administration to harnessing the strength of innovation to create an “America built to last.” Obama stressed the importance of basic research in the development of new health tools. He also urged Congress not to cut parts of the budget that will hurt the promise of science and technology:

“Innovation also demands basic research. Today, the discoveries taking place in our federally-financed labs and universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched. New lightweight vests for cops and soldiers that can stop any bullet. Don’t gut these investments in our budget. Don’t let other countries win the race for the future. Support the same kind of research and innovation that led to the computer chip and the Internet; to new American jobs and new American industries.”

President Obama called on Congress to support the work of entrepreneurs and researchers—through tax breaks and other financial incentives, in addition to funding. Much of the speech targeted improvements to domestic priorities such as American job creation, immigration policy reform, and finance industry management. However, it was clear that the President is seeking a renewal of American leadership around the world through engagement on international human rights and international business.

Leadership in global health research and innovation will be a critical part of this effort. Recent global health R&D news–from the exciting preliminary results of a malaria vaccine to the startling news of a completely drug resistant TB strain–demonstrates the that the US should not halt or slow its support for R&D in the fight against global health challenges.

President Obama stressed the importance of basic research in the development of new health tools during his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening. Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/PATH.

This year is a pivotal one for US support of global health R&D for several reasons. These include changes at the Global Fund, the International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC, this summer, the roll-out of the new National Center for Advancing Translational Science at the National Institutes of Health, and additional research results from a number of important studies. All of these are mixed with looming budget sequestration cuts and a presidential election. President Obama’s speech made it clear that he will support the R&D programs that lead to cost-effective tools that can save lives. It is yet to be seen if Congress will follow suit.

You can find a video of the speech, with accompanying charts here:

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