Early success rates suggest that the ASH Bridge Grant program is making an impact, [but] it is still a temporary fix for a larger problem.
—Linda J. Burns, MD, ASH President
The American Society of Hematology (ASH) recently announced the names of 15 researchers (see sidebar on page 15) who will receive interim support from the Society for hematology research proposals. These proposals earned high scores but could not be funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) amid severe funding reductions, The support will come in the form of 1-year, $100,000 ASH Bridge Grants, awards intended to help bridge these ASH member investigators to their next NIH research grant by funding efforts to gather additional data to strengthen the resubmission of their applications.
Bridge to NIH Funding
The 15 noteworthy ASH Bridge Grant recipients announced recently join 29 hematologists who 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.
Following a decade of flat funding for the agency, in 2013 the NIH budget was slashed by more than 5% as part of sequestration. While Congress restored nearly $1 billion to the NIH budget for fiscal year 2014, funding for U.S. biomedical research remains insufficient to address the need for treatments for blood diseases worldwide. The current federal appropriation to NIH is more than $700 million short of the agency’s pre-sequestration budget,
“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 in Minneapolis. “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.
To learn more about ASH’s Bridge Grant Program, visit www.hematology.org/bridgegrants. ■