March 28, 2019
Thank you to the Congressional Lupus Caucus Co-chairs for leading, and to all the Representatives who signed on to a letter to the House Appropriations Committee asking for increased funding to support critically important lupus research programs in FY 2020.
Kudos to our advocates who urged legislators online and in person to sign the letter. The letter highlighted our request for $10 million fund the Lupus Research Program at the Department of Defense (DoD) – twice the amount in the FY 2019 budget! And together, we more than doubled the number of legislators who signed on — from 24 last year, now 60 members of the House of Representatives voiced their support of our community’s request. We were heard!
Why should the Department of Defense fund lupus research?
An increasing number of active-duty service members and veterans will be diagnosed with lupus. Defense Department data shows that the number of women in our armed forces is at its highest in U.S. history. Women account for almost 15 percent of active duty Service Members, almost 20 percent of Reserves and 16 percent of the National Guard. Our nation now has over 2 million women veterans who make up about 9 percent of the total veteran population.
Reflecting the tremendous need for grant funding, the response from the nation’s scientific community to this funding opportunity has been overwhelming. In just two years, 220 applications were received, representing an estimated $80 million in requested funding. With a limited budget of $5 million each year, only 13 grants were given in the first year, and no more than 17 are expected to be funded this year. That leaves 190 potential lupus research breakthroughs unexplored!
In our conversations with Congress, we also asked that $41.6 million go to the National Institutes of Health budget. We are proud to urge Congress to continue their commitment to sustained and meaningful growth in biomedical research funding especially considering lupus-specific funding at NIH is still down by 13% compared to 2008.
While the Lupus Research Alliance is the world’s largest private funder of lupus research and has invested over $200 million in innovative lupus research, tomorrow’s advances in lupus and other autoimmune diseases treatment cannot be fully realized without today’s investments by our federal government. Thank you advocates for putting in the time and energy to share your stories with Congress – stories that illustrate only too well why new treatments and a cure are so urgently needed! We will keep you posted on the progress of the bill through the House and Senate.