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American Society of Hematology Commits $3 Million Annually to Help Preserve Critical Blood Disease Research

Established in 2012 as short-term support for researchers affected by federal funding shortfalls, the ASH Bridge Grant program is now a permanent society offering. Nine hematologists have received the latest round of awards.

(WASHINGTON — July 21, 2016) With a $3 million annual commitment to support promising blood disease research amid limited National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, the American Society of Hematology (ASH)—the world’s largest professional society concerned with the causes and treatment of blood disorders—today announced the formal establishment of the ASH Bridge Grant program after an extended four-year pilot study.

ASH also announced today the names of nine investigators who have received the latest round of ASH Bridge Grants to sustain their promising research programs that scored well but could not be supported by the NIH as a result of limited funding.

The NIH is the world’s top provider of medical research grants. However, more than a decade of flat funding and spending reductions have drastically reduced the agency’s ability to fund innovative research. While NIH has received funding increases in recent years, its ability to back high-scoring proposals remains severely limited due to the unpredictable nature of the congressional budget process. This has resulted in extraordinary competition for NIH research project grant (R01) awards, which prevents many worthy projects from receiving necessary financial support.

In 2012, ASH established the Bridge Grants as an innovative $9 million four-year pilot initiative to ensure that advancements in treating hematologic malignancies would continue in spite of inconsistent federal funding. This decision to formalize the initiative comes after ASH has awarded funding to 73 hematologists. More than half of Bridge Grants recipients awarded from 2013–2014 have subsequently received R01 grants. This demonstrates the value of this program in allowing critical research to continue.

“The ASH Bridge Grants program encourages the retention of promising researchers in the field of hematology, prevents labs from closing, and most importantly, ensures that research and discovery can continue,” said ASH President Charles S. Abrams, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania. “When these pivotal research programs lack funding, progress and knowledge are forced to take a back seat, as scientists spend more time applying for alternative grants rather than conducting important research. It’s rewarding to know that we can foster scientific innovation in these times of financial uncertainty.” 

The latest round of projects to be supported by the ASH Bridge Grant program encompasses a host of basic, clinical, and translational hematologic research. Projects funded include exploring the causes of drug resistance in certain cancers, using T cells in anti-tumor activity, and measuring the impact of sickle cell disease on cognitive function.

Beyond the Society’s financial commitment, awards are also supported by individual and corporate donors.

“Because ASH has funded innovative research projects, we have seen so many wonderful developments in treating blood diseases and blood cancers in recent years,” said Dr. Abrams. “It is our hope that Washington’s recent willingness to work across the aisle continues with increased investment in the NIH. Such funding is paramount to ensuring that the end to blood cancers and blood disease are discovered in labs across the country, and that those who are dependent upon these cures will see them in their lifetimes.”

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The American Society of Hematology (ASH) (www.hematology.org) is the world’s largest professional society of hematologists dedicated to furthering the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disorders affecting the blood. For more than 50 years, the Society has led the development of hematology as a discipline by promoting research, patient care, education, training, and advocacy in hematology. The official journal of ASH is Blood (www.bloodjournal.org), the most cited peer-reviewed publication in the field, which is available weekly in print and online.