Reaffirming America’s Commitment to Bioscience

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Thank you to more than 1,000 leaders in medical research, bioscience, patient advocacy, industry, philanthropy and public policy who actively participated during the September 7-9, 2012 weekend and made the Celebration of Science such a success. Our goal was to reaffirm the importance of bioscience and, in doing that, to change the world for future generations. We're off to a fantastic start and have already accomplished several of our objectives.

The Celebration weekend was only the beginning of an ongoing initiative led by FasterCures and the Milken Institute and involving hundreds of individuals and organizations. You can now watch every Celebration of Science panel and talk from the first discussion on Friday, September 7th with Magic Johnson to Sunday’s closing dialogue with James Watson and all events in between.  Highlights included:

  • The Majority Leaders of the U.S. Senate and House – Democrat Harry Reid and Republican Eric Cantor – on the same stage in support of the same goal. As one of our speakers noted, “Disease doesn’t care which party you prefer.” That was reflected in appearances by former House Speaker and current Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; Senator Daniel Inouye, the Appropriations Committee Chairman; Senator Ben Cardin, a member of the Senate Budget and Finance Committees; former Senator Connie Mack and former Congressman John Porter, two of the leaders who led efforts to double the NIH budget in the late 1990s; House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer; Fred Upton, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee; Chris Van Hollen, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee; Brian Bilbray, Chairman of the House Immigration Reform Caucus; and Chaka Fattah, a member of the House Appropriations Committee.
  • Panel discussions and talks by Cabinet Secretaries Steven Chu (Energy), Kathleen Sebelius (HHS) and former HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt, along with Council of Economic Advisors Chairman Alan Krueger, White House Science Advisor John Holdren and National Science Foundation Director Subra Suresh (and several NSF Deputy Directors).
  • Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s discussion about HIV with Tony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
  • Participation by dozens of disease-specific organizations, including members of the FasterCures TRAIN network. We heard powerful and emotional stories from patients and patient advocates.
  • Other participants included heads of bio-pharmaceutical companies, scientifically oriented corporations, foundations and private philanthropies, universities and leading medical centers. The University of Michigan’s ten attendees were just one academic group among the 600+ scientists. Perhaps the best explanation of why they were there can be found in the words of Eric Lander, president of the Broad Institute. During a morning of panels and talks at George Washington University, Dr. Lander said, “We underestimate how powerful it is to be called to the service of science. We need to light people’s fires. Tell them, ‘We need you,’ the same way Jim Watson once said to me, ‘Do something with the genome!’”
  • The NIH past, present and future panel, with current Director Francis Collins and former Directors Harold Varmus and Elias Zerhouni. The FDA showed similar continuity with Commissioner Margaret Hamburg and past Commissioners Andy von Eschenbach and Mark McClellan.
  • Glimpses of future technologies from DARPA’s Jay Schnitzer and the X-Prize Foundation’s Peter Diamandis.
  • Moving tributes – from Stevie Nicks to wounded warriors; from Melissa Manchester to the late Marvin Hamlisch; and from Kenneth ‘Babyface’ Edmonds to a father lost too soon – as well as a ‘Genes and Jazz’ interlude narrated by Nobel laureate and current NCI Director Harold Varmus; and the “Rock Docs,” a band of leading medical scientists who also happen to be great musicians.
  • But the focus throughout the three-day weekend was on the demonstrated returns on bioscience investments and the incredible potential for future advances. During an inspiring day at NIH headquarters we saw stunning technological advances that are beginning to turn today’s dreams into tomorrow’s cures. All the statistics we’d heard – impressive as they were – moved to the background as the audience was riveted by compelling stories: fatally ill children restored to full enjoyment of life; wounded warriors literally given a hand (or leg) up by advanced prosthetics; a pharmaceutical breakthrough providing the gift of breath for cystic fibrosis sufferers … and much more.

To maintain this momentum, we'll continue to support research into the benefits of bioscience investments, and we'll keep the dialogue going in Washington and across the country. We want you to stay involved in this effort, too. We invite you to review the materials on this site, to read more about the event goals in Mike Milken's recent Wall Street Journal article, and us at the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles.