We are proud to announce the ACR Research and Education Foundation (REF) recently achieved a major accomplishment: we surpassed the initial $30-million fundraising goal of the Within Our Reach: Finding a Cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis campaign! To date, commitments to the campaign total $30,719,054 from 245 donors.
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Explore This IssueJune 2011
At the time Within Our Reach was conceived, the growth in National Institutes of Health (NIH) research funding had reached a leveling-off point after a decade that saw unprecedented doubling of their extramural budget. Recognizing this trend, the ACR Committee on Research, chaired by Jane Salmon, MD, brought its concerns to the ACR Board of Directors. The discussions that followed led to a joint meeting between the leadership of the ACR and REF, resulting in the creation of a task force to address this issue.
Among its recommendations, the task force called for the REF to explore a disease-targeted research initiative in RA. The REF then convened a scientific forum at the 2005 Annual Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies Meeting in Boston to mobilize efforts and identify the key topic areas that might have the most impact on research in this disease area. Shortly thereafter, the REF engaged a consultant, Community Counselling Service (CCS), to conduct a feasibility study to test the case for such a research initiative and determine a goal level for fundraising. V. Michael Holers, MD, chair of the REF Scientific Advisory Council at the time, led the efforts to design a grants portfolio that could support innovative research in RA. Thus, we began our journey to raise $30 million for the Within Our Reach: Finding a Cure for Rheumatoid Arthritis campaign—a bold step for our professional organization—and the stage was set for new funding opportunities that would bring the best and brightest to the field of RA research.
The campaign was launched in 2006 under the direction of current REF senior director of development Paula Reed, formerly of CCS, with a plan to focus on the solicitation of major gifts from a variety of constituents, including the ACR and our partners from the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, and research-minded individuals, primarily patients under the care of rheumatologists and the families of these patients. Raising money for research from individuals impacted by RA was an utterly new endeavor for the REF. To effectively walk this path, the REF had to develop a new volunteer structure to expand its capabilities in building a new area of support. Many volunteers who shared our vision were recruited to the Within Our Reach campaign. This new volunteer structure consisted of a core group of community-based rheumatologists appointed as ambassadors and diplomats. There was also leadership from a cadre of influential members of the ACR, including Stanley Cohen, MD, Leslie Crofford, MD, Stuart Kassan, MD, Jeff Lawson, MD, James O’Dell, MD, Stephen Paget, MD, Michael Weinblatt, MD, and Kathy Upchurch, MD. We cannot thank them enough for their contributions to this effort.
Today, due to the dedication of many volunteers along the way, we have reached our fundraising goal of $30 million and awarded 58 grants, totaling $24.4 million, in support of RA research.
Today, due to the dedication of many volunteers along the way, we have reached our fundraising goal of $30 million and awarded 58 grants, totaling $24.4 million, in support of RA research. The awarding of grants through this program will extend into 2012, with an additional $6 million of support in the form of novel clinical trials to be funded next fall. By many measures, the campaign has been a huge success for our organization. Here are some of the research highlights:
- 25 investigators have completed Within Our Reach projects.
- 24 Within Our Reach investigators have been awarded an additional $59 million total in related NIH grants.
- NIH funding for arthritis research has increased by $87 million (this includes American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds).
- More than 140 articles from Within Our Reach–funded projects have been published in peer-reviewed journals.
- More than 300 presentations by Within Our Reach investigators have been given at scientific meetings worldwide.
While these numbers are impressive, they only tell part of the story about the success of the campaign.
Building a Collaborative Community
The annual meetings of the Within Our Reach investigators have proven to be another major accomplishment. The excitement is palpable at these meetings, as the investigators present their research findings and engage in lively exchanges. Within Our Reach has brought new investigators into this area of research from both inside and outside of rheumatology, a goal of the program from the outset that expands the critical mass of scientists focused on advancing knowledge in RA. New collaborations have been formed among the group that have resulted in new research endeavors and successful grant applications.