Created by on 05/29/2012

On the evening of May 16th, more than two hundred people attended a reception on Capitol Hill to celebrate the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology’s (FASEB) centennial and the National Institute of General Medical Science’s (NIGMS) 50th anniversary. Hosted by FASEB, the event highlighted advances in biomedical research that have been achieved over the last 100 years as a result of the federal government’s investment in NIGMS and basic research. FASEB President Dr. Joseph C. LaManna served as the master of ceremonies, welcoming a wide range of distinguished guests including members of Congress, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, Acting NIGMS Director Dr. Judith Greenberg, NIGMS alumni, senior staff from the National Science Foundation, Montgomery County Council member George Leventhal, three Nobel Laureates, science reporters, and representatives from research advocacy organizations and patient groups. The event also featured photos of FASEB Presidents and highlights of FASEB public policy achievements. A video recognizing milestones in NIGMS’ history, as well as a selection of winning images from FASEB’s inaugural BioArt competition (see related story in this newsletter) were displayed throughout the reception venue.
In his opening remarks, Dr. LaManna reflected on the many outstanding accomplishments of biomedical research, noting that when the American Physiological Society, the American Society of Biological Chemists, and the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics met to establish FASEB, penicillin and other antibiotics had not been developed, insulin and other lifesaving therapeutics were unknown, and the virus that caused polio had not been isolated. LaManna also paid tribute to NIGMS, recognizing the institute’s leadership in training the next generation of scientists, as well as in developing and increasing the diversity of the scientific workforce. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), the leader of a bipartisan effort to prevent cuts to NIH funding, discussed the importance of biomedical research to the economy and the role of the life sciences industry in promoting economic growth in the United States. FASEB’s and NIH’s representative in the U.S. House, Christopher Van Hollen, thanked NIGMS and the Federation for their efforts to keep members of Congress informed about the concerns of scientists from around the country. Representative Van Hollen also reiterated his support for sustained funding for biomedical research, stating that he looked forward to providing an increase for NIH in fiscal year 2013. Dr. Collins offered his perspective on scientific advancements that have improved our understanding of basic science and discussed the importance of NIH funding for investigator initiated research. Noting that the theme of NIGMS’ 50th anniversary is investigate, innovate, inspire, Dr. Greenberg spoke about the need to attract and train the best scientific minds in order to maintain our global competitiveness.
Three Nobel Laureates shared personal reflections about what it meant to receive NIGMS funding early in their careers. Dr. Thomas R. Cech, of the University of Colorado Boulder and a 1989 co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discoveries regarding the catalytic properties of ribonucleic acid(RNA) mentioned that improvements in our health today are the result of investments in basic research made more than three decades ago. He also noted that his first NIGMS grant was funded at the 35th percentile, a stark contrast to the situation facing researchers today. One of the 2006 Nobel Prize winners for Physiology or Medicine, Dr. Andrew Z. Fire of Stanford University, discussed the NIGMS funding he received which led to the discovery of RNA interference, an important mechanism controlling gene expression. Dr. Fire reflected that this advancement was a tribute to NIGMS’s willingness to support fundamental aspects of basic science. Rockefeller University professor and co-winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Dr. Roderick MacKinnon, thanked NIGMS for providing his first NIH grant and explained how that led to his research using scorpion venom to understand how potassium channels work.
FASEB President-Elect, Dr. Judith Bond closed the program by thanking all of the speakers for their inspiring remarks and their support of research. She also urged those in attendance to join FASEB in the critical fight to sustain and preserve the U.S.’s legacy of leadership in science and technology.

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) addresses attendees.

Representative Christopher Van Hollen (D-MD) greets NIH Director, Dr. Francis Collins.


FASEB President Dr. Joseph LaManna, FASEB President-Elect Dr. Judith Bond, and NIGMS Acting Director Dr. Judith Greenberg with Nobel Laureates Dr. Roderick MacKinnon, Dr. Andrew Fire, and Dr. Thomas Cech.