September is National Sickle Cell Awareness Month, prompting all of us to take a moment to reflect on this devastating genetic disorder and why it is so important to advance research that may lead to better symptom management and potentially, a cure. Sickle cell disease (SCD) today has almost 100,000 people in its grip in the United States, and millions more worldwide. Many suffer terribly and die young.
More than a year ago, I asked the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) community to pause and imagine a world where we are able to prevent or cure heart, lung, and blood diseases and the enormous burdens associated with them; a world where we are able to capture the promise of predictive health, preventive care, and precision medicine.
The NHLBI’s legacy of excellence in clinical trials rests on the shoulders of investigators, thousands of research participants, and the public that have all partnered with us on trials that have shaped clinical practice and improved the health of millions of Americans.
Some of the most seminal findings in biomedical research emerge from the pursuit of curiosity, as investigators follow a specific line of inquiry to scientific breakthroughs. This innovation is fundamental to the mission of the National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). As such, I am pleased to announce that the NHLBI is piloting an exciting new program, referred to as the NHLBI R35 Program, to help meet this goal.
Clinical trials are a vital part of the research continuum that takes basic research findings at the bench and ultimately translates them into innovations in clinical practice. NHLBI has an important legacy of conducting and funding clinical trials that have indeed provided critical insights into the mechanisms of human disease as well as shaped how physicians address heart, lung, blood, and sleep disorders.
It is with bittersweet emotion that I announce the departure of Dr. Michael S. Lauer, director of the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences (DCVS), from the NHLBI. We are proud and excited that NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins has selected Dr. Lauer to join his NIH leadership team as the next Deputy Director for Extramural Research and Director of the NIH Office of Extramural Research Activities.
Recently, I announced the initial results of the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT), a clinical trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health designed to determine the best way to treat blood pressure in adults with hypertension, 50 years or older, who are at risk for heart disease.
Each June, World Sickle Cell Day offers NHLBI a chance to reflect on our ongoing commitment to improving the lives of those living with this devastating blood disorder. Sickle cell disease affects millions worldwide and about 90,000 to 100,000 people in the United States. NHLBI- and NIH-supported research has made significant advances that have helped extend the lives of those who have sickle cell disease. But we recognize much remains to be accomplished, such as enabling a generation of children with sickle cell disease to live without fear of suffering a stroke. Our efforts include not only seeking a more-widely available cure but engaging and enriching the community affected by this life-long condition.
The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), one of the largest women's health projects ever launched in the United States, continues to yield new insights for the health of women. As the program gears up to launch two new trials, I took the opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of women who have participated in the WHI for many years, and sent them a heartfelt note of thanks. They responded with numerous sincere sentiments of gratitude for being able to participate in the study.
The NHLBI has launched a Strategic Visioning process to gather ideas for the most compelling scientific priorities to address over the next decade. Broad participation from the heart, lung, blood, and sleep research communities – scientists and patients alike - is vital to the success of this effort.