The search to prevent, contain, and eradicate global pandemics and other life-threatening conditions is underway in laboratories across the United States and around the world, thanks in large part to training provided by the Fogarty International Center. I experienced this first hand when, while serving as a member of Congress, I went to Brazil some years ago to work with the scientists there on a mission to preserve rare plants. At the time, Brazilians were clear-cutting forest in the Amazon. Recognizing the detrimental consequences of deforestation to global health, I asked the Fogarty International Center to work with Brazilians to collect rare plants that might have medicinal properties that would otherwise be lost forever.
Thousands of prescription and over-the-counter drugs are derived from plants, animals, or microorganisms. Fogarty is supporting research focused on biodiversity conservation and the discovery of new therapeutic agents derived from plants, animals, and microorganisms in low- and middle-income countries to address diseases that are becoming increasingly drug resistant. Another example of Fogarty’s influence is the collaboration between the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Brazil to identify therapeutic agents by studying the symbiotic bacteria carried by ants in Brazil, which could lead to the development of new antifungal drugs. Fogarty is among the funders of this biodiversity project.
Fogarty, part of the NIH, saves lives through innovative work such as the projects mentioned. In addition, and crucially, Fogarty funding helps to train the next generation of scientists in the United States and around the world. The center’s namesake, former Democratic Congressman John Edward Fogarty, who represented Rhode Island’s 2nd district from 1941 to 1967, believed in the possibility of research to protect individuals worldwide. He called attention to the reality that federal funding to advance such work was not keeping pace with scientific opportunity. During his time in Congress, he worked to increase federal investments at the NIH to assure that our nation’s engine of discovery was well equipped to meet the challenges of globalization and emerging health threats, as well as those more familiar to most Americans. As chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, I continued his legacy in working across the aisle to double the NIH budget, paving the way for new opportunities in global health research at Fogarty to protect Americans from the ravages of disease and disability, and build capacity abroad to fight pandemics.