The American Society of Hematology (ASH), concerned with the causes and treatment of blood diseases, has formally established the ASH Bridge Grant program, an annual commitment of $3 million in research awards to support promising projects, including the study of sickle cell anemia.
The formal establishment of the program followed an extended four-year pilot study.
The society also named nine investigators who were awarded the latest round of ASH Bridge Grants to fund their research programs that scored well, but still weren’t eligible to receive grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) due to limited funding from Congress and intense competition from other researchers.
This latest round of projects includes basic, clinical, and translational hematologic research, exploring the causes of drug resistance in specific cancers, using T-cells in anti-tumor activity, and measuring the impact of sickle cell disease on cognitive function.
The awards are also supported by individual and corporate donors in addition to the society’s financial commitment.
ASH established the Bridge Grants in 2012 as an innovative $9 million four-year pilot program to ensure that advancements in the treatment of hematologic malignancies would continue despite inconsistent federal NIH funding for research projects.
“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,” ASH President Dr. Charles S. Abrams, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania, said in a press release.
“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,” Abrams said.
The NIH is a leading provider of research funding, but congressional reductions have drastically reduced the agency’s capacity to fund innovative projects. While the NIH has been trying to fight the trend and increase funding opportunities, the agency is limited due to the unpredictable nature of the federal budget process. This has led to an extraordinary competition for NIH research project grants, preventing many worthy projects from receiving financial support.
More than half of Bridge Grant recipients awarded between 2013 and 2014 have subsequently received NIH grants.
“Because ASH has funded innovative research projects, we have seen so many wonderful developments in treating blood diseases and blood cancers in recent years,” Abrams said. “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 American labs across the country, and that those who are dependent upon these cures will see them in their lifetimes.”