Former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania Arlen Specter died Sunday at the age of 82. Despite his extensive, and sometimes turbulent, career in the Senate, Specter was a consistent ally and supporter of the National Institutes of Health. Specter was one of the architects of the NIH budget doubling from 1998–2003, and he also worked to secure a substantial financial allocation for NIH in the 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. Specter endured heart disease and several bouts of cancer. However, he never hid his disease from the public, nor did he allow it to prevent him from serving the people of Pennsylvania.
The loss of Specter will be felt at NIH as well as at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. ASBMB awarded Specter the Howard K. Schachman Public Service award in 2005 for his consistent efforts to advocate for biomedical research and his tireless work improve the research enterprise. “Today, America lost a true statesman, and the biomedical research community lost one of its biggest champions over the past 15 years,” said Jeremy Berg, the president of ASBMB, in a press release. “Senator Specter was a long supporter of the scientists who work every day in America’s labs trying to understand biology and the underlying mechanisms behind the diseases that affect millions of Americans.”