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Helping to Diversify Funding for Sleep Research

Sleep Research Society
Friday, August 15, 2014

One of the paradox’s in our membership survey is that only 27.4 percent of members rated our Government Relations Program as being important or very important.  Yet, many of the individual suggestions that we received related to increased advocacy for research funding.  We appreciate, therefore, we have not done a good job in communicating to you what we are doing.
Jim Walsh did a terrific job during his presidency revamping our Government Affairs Program.  We now have a contract with the outstanding Health and Medicine Counsel of Washington — Mr. Dale Dirks and Ms. Priyanka Surio.  Dirks was involved previously with sleep research.  He was instrumental in obtaining funding for Specialized Centers of Research grants in sleep apnea in 1988; establishing the National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research; establishing the National Center for Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Dr. Janet Mullington is currently Chair of our Government Relations Committee.
Dirks and Surio have worked recently with Dr. Fred Turek to increase the likelihood that sleep and sleep disorders research will become a priority for the Department of Defense (DOD).

The full Senate Appropriations Committee approved its fiscal year 2015 (FY15) Defense Appropriations bill which expressed support for sleep and medical research. The bill also includes language emphasizing collaboration between DOD and the NIH in research efforts. Before it becomes law, the bill must be passed by the full Senate and House of Representatives, and be signed by the President.The amount allocated for the Peer-Reviewed Medical Research Program
was $247.5 million, an increase of $47.5 million over the FY14 funding level.

Several efforts were made by both SRS Government Relations members and the Health and Medicine Counsel of Washington to ensure the success of sleep language and support in this bill. Dr. Turek, in conjunction with the Northwestern Office of Sponsored Research and the Northwestern Government affairs office in Washington, D.C., worked with the staff of Senator Dick Durbin's (D-IL) office to get language into the report accompanying the FY 2015 Senate Defense Appropriations bill regarding the importance of sleep and circadian rhythms for health, safety, performance and productivity of Americans. Dirks and Surio, the SRS Washington representatives, conducted over a dozen visits with Senate offices on key defense and health committees and submitted language recommendations which were incorporated into the FY15 Defense Appropriations bill. Namely, they worked with the offices of Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Durbin (D-IL), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Dan Coats (R-IN), Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA).

The committee outlined specific recommendations for the Secretary of Defense and Surgeon General including the following:

“Select medical research projects of clear scientific merit and direct relevance to military health. Research areas considered under this funding are restricted to chronic migraine and post-traumatic headach; gulf war illnes and sleep disorders. The Committee emphasizes that the additional funding provided under the Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program shall be devoted only to the purposes listed above. The Committee remains supportive of the medical research being conducted by the Department that yields medical breakthroughs for servicemembers and often translates to the civilian population, as well as Sleep Disorder Research. The Committee recognizes that sleep disorders are increasingly prevalent among servicemembers and that such disruptions have been associated with diverse mental and physical disorders, including traumatic brain injury (TBI) and posttraumatic stress. The Committee applauds the Army for acknowledging the importance of sleep in achieving optimal physical, mental and emotional health and including sleep as a focus in the Performance Triad. In support of this effort, the Committee urges the Department to support basic, translational and clinical research on how the disruption of normal sleep and circadian biological rhythms adversely affects the health, safety, performance and productivity of our military and civilian populations.”