Fueling America’s innovation

Two researchers from USC Mann are featured in a new initiative by The Science Coalition (TSC) to remind the public and policymakers of the tremendous contributions of federally funded research and specifically about the people who are trained as a result of opportunities from such funding. Roberta Diaz Brinton, the R. Pete Vanderveen Endowed Chair in Therapeutic Discovery and Development, and Andrew MacKay, assistant professor who specializes in biomedical engineering, are among those featured in the innovators video project. 

The videos, brochure and webpage that comprise the new initiative focus on the people who fuel America’s innovation pipeline – the scientists, engineers, doctors and teachers, who are among the most capable in the world. They are the key to ensuring that the cycle of innovation and discovery that drives the nation’s economic growth will continue.  

“As the specter of automatic, across-the-board budget cuts draws closer, it is essential to remind people not just of the role that science-driven innovation plays in our economy, but also of the caliber of people who conduct that research on our behalf,” said Abby Benson, 2012 President of the Science Coalition and Assistant Vice President for Research and Federal Relations at the University of Colorado.  

“Behind every discovery are people who have committed their careers to scientific inquiry; the vast majority of these people also are largely dependent on federal funding to support their work. Every time science budgets are cut or flat-funded, we risk losing a generation of talent and America’s status as an innovation powerhouse,” Benson said.  

Brinton’s work focuses on Alzheimer’s disease and MacKay’s work seeks to develop more efficient, customized delivery of biopharmaceuticals. 
“Despite over four decades of a war on cancer, there were over 500,000 cancer deaths in the US last years,” says MacKay in the video. “We’re developing customized therapeutics that contain a therapeutic component – a drug – and also an imaging component that allows us to directly detect how these drugs are distributed within patients. The idea is to customize how these drugs are delivered to an individual patient.’ 
MacKay’s research aims to deliver drugs more efficiently while minimizing unwanted side effects. Brinton’s work is looking specifically at the aging female brain and addressing why 68% of all Alzheimer’s disease patients are women.  
“We ask if that is simply because women live longer or is it because of the way their brains age,” says Brinton of the work in her lab. “Our team is conducting scientific discovery and translating those discoveries to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease. So, we literally go from the bench to the bedside.” 
Both the MacKay and Brinton labs have federal support from the National Institutes of Health. MacKay also has federal support from the Department of Defense.  
“Drs. Brinton and MacKay are pursuing paths of research with the potential to impact therapies for two of today’s greatest challenges – cancer and Alzheimer’s disease,” says R. Pete Vanderveen, dean of USC Mann. “We are grateful for the federal support of their projects and many others at our school and look forward to the discoveries that these efforts will bring.” 
When the federal government funds scientific research, the return to the American public far exceeds the initial investment. Federally-funded university researchers are not just conducting research, they are running labs, teaching classes, mentoring young scientists, and – through new discoveries, techniques and insights – enhancing America’s capacity to innovate.  
The University of Southern California is one of the nation’s premier research institutions with over $600 million in annual research expenditures. 

The work of Dr. Diaz Brinton and Dr. MacKay is featured on a new webpage (innovators.sciencecoalition.org) that is dedicated to telling the stories of federally-funded university researchers across the country. The work of these researchers, and many thousands of others, will drive innovations in medicine, technology, energy, safety and the environment – leading the way toward a healthier, more sustainable, secure and prosperous future for all Americans.  
The Science Coalition brochure and videos can be viewed at innovators.sciencecoalition.org.  
The Science Coalition is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization of the nation’s leading public and private research universities. It is dedicated to sustaining strong federal funding of basic scientific research as a means to stimulate the economy, spur innovation and drive America’s global competitiveness.