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September 15, 2015

The Lasker Awards—Recognizing and Valuing Investments in Cardiovascular Research

Author Affiliations
  • 1Duke Clinical Research Institute, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina
  • 2Associate Editor, JAMA
JAMA. 2015;314(11):1121-1122. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.10486

Obtaining federal funding for medical research has never been more challenging. The inflation-adjusted budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has declined approximately 20% over the past decade.1 Today’s science community could certainly use supporters like Mary and Albert Lasker. The Laskers were a power couple in the mid-1900s with strong beliefs in the societal value of medical research. They saw science as needing 2 things: money and publicity. Mary Lasker used 2 favorite phrases with politicians: “Without money nothing gets done” and “If you think research is expensive, try disease.”2,3 Stimulated in large part by her tenacious advocacy, Congress increased the NIH budget from $2.4 million in 1945 to $5.5 billion by 1985, an increase of 2000%.4 Albert Lasker, considered the father of modern advertising, shared his wife’s passion for health and employed his promotional abilities to popularize important medical achievements. Together they created the Lasker Foundation, which annually recognizes outstanding basic, clinical, and population health achievements, and the Lasker Awards are widely considered one of America’s highest honors in medicine.