March: Biodefense & food supply safety // TrendU.S. to lose a generation of young medical, biology researchers

Published 13 March 2008

Five consecutive years of flat funding the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is deterring promising young researchers and threatening the future of U.S. health, a group of seven preeminent academic research institutions warn

A nation’s security and welfare are only as strong — and its future only as promising — as the strength of its educational system, the vitality of its research institutions, and the creativity of its scientists. Readers of the Daily Wire would know that we have noted, with increasing alarm — and not without a creeping sense of gloom —the steady weakening of the U.S. position relative to China, but in certain areas also relative to Europe, in high school-level education; the number of college and post-college graduates in math, science, and engineering; the number of registered patents, and more. That this decline in U.S. scientific preeminence will have deleterious effects on the nation’s security and welfare is not in question. What is puzzling — “inexplicable” is perhaps better here — is the fact that these are largely self-inflicted wounds. Different budgetary and policy priorities would have yielded vastly different results, with very different consequences for the nation and its well-being. A perfect, and worrisome, example is the Bush administration’s 2003 decision to begin and steadily cut the research budget of the National Institute of Health (NIH).

In a new and alarming report released two days ago, a group of concerned institutions (six research universities and a major teaching hospital) described the toll that cumulative stagnant National Health Institute (NIH) funding is taking on the American medical research enterprise. The leading institutions warned that if NIH does not get consistent and robust support in the future, the United States will lose a generation of young investigators to other careers and other countries and, with them, a generation of promising research that could cure diseases for millions for whom no cure currently exists. The report, “A Broken Pipeline” Flat Funding of the NIH Puts a Generation of Science at Risk,” was co-authored by Brown University, Duke University, Harvard University, The Ohio State University, Partners Healthcare, the University of California Los Angeles, and Vanderbilt University.

It profiles twelve junior researchers from institutions across the country who, despite their exceptional qualifications and noteworthy research, attest to the funding difficulties that they and their professional peers are experiencing. These researchers are devising new ways to manipulate stem cells to repair the heart, revealing critical pathways involved in cancer and brain diseases, and using new technologies to diagnose and treat kidney disease. The twenty-page report follows up on a related report released by a group of academic institutions in March 2007, titled “Within Our Grasp — Or Slipping Away: Assuring a New Era of Scientific and Medical Progress.” That report, issued by a similar group of nine institutions across the country, showed how stagnant NIH funding was slowing discovery and squandering the significant opportunities for breakthroughs that past investment has put within reach. “This is a real problem, discussed at almost every meeting one attends on campus, that can’t be simply dismissed,” said Drew Faust, Ph.D., president of Harvard University. “This is about the investment that America is — or is not — making in the health of its citizens and its economy. Right now, the nation’s brightest, young researchers, upon whom the future of American medicine rests, are getting the message that biomedical research may be a dead end and they should explore other career options