April 4, 2013 | by Darrin Joy
Current news headlines seem to focus on the across-the-board federal budget cuts — known as sequestration — as the primary threat to U.S. biomedical research. But this is not the only straw that broke the camel’s back. A chronic decline of public funding has weakened the country’s scientific efforts for years.
On Monday, researchers are gathering to say, “Enough is enough.” More than 170 organizations — from comprehensive cancer centers to research advocacy groups — and thousands of survivors, researchers, clinicians, business leaders and members of the general public aim to make their voices heard at the Rally for Medical Research on April 8 in Washington, D.C., with satellite events throughout the nation.
Their goal: Convince U.S. policymakers to make medical research funding a national priority.
One of those events will be at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center for Cancer Immunotherapeutics & Tumor Immunology. As a national leader in biomedical research, few institutions can predict the impact on research, and patients, better than City of Hope.
Sequestration, which took effect March 1, slashed funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by more than 5 percent — about $1.5 billion. It was a heavy blow, but only the most recent one. The NIH budget has been stagnant for nearly a decade, resulting in an estimated $5.5 billion — about 30 percent — loss since 2003 because funding has not kept pace with the rate of biomedical inflation, which is around 3 percent each year.
As funding dwindles, researchers fear the country’s ability to cope with an aging population and a growing burden of chronic diseases — including cancer and diabetes — will follow. NIH funding is a key factor in finding treatment breakthroughs for patients with these diseases.
In addition, federal funding of biomedical research creates jobs and bolsters the economy. In 2010, it led to nearly 500,000 jobs and generated $69 billion in new economic activity. Currently 325,000 scientists across the U.S. rely on NIH funding to continue their search for breakthroughs. Without more NIH funding, the future of American biomedical research remains tenuous.
According to United for Medical Research, an advocacy group working to increase NIH funding, the sequester cuts alone will cost more than 20,000 jobs and erase $3 billion from the economy. And long-term effects could include a loss of talented researchers, who will look toward other industries or countries.
“That sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Some brilliant young scientists will just say there are easier ways to make a living than cancer research,” said Linda Malkas, Ph.D., deputy director of basic research at City of Hope, in a recent Daily Beast article.
In support of the rally, City of Hope will be organizing a satellite event at 8 a.m. on Monday, April 8, in the lobby of the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center. Scientists, graduate students, clinicians and staff members will gather to view the rally as it live streams from Washington D.C. and show their support. Malkas will be speaking at the event, along with David Horne, Ph.D., interim director of Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, and Ashley Baker Lee, City of Hope’s senior vice president of research operations.
You can join us Monday at 8 a.m. at City of Hope in the lobby of the Beckman Center to advocate for the funding of medical research – and for a future with more breakthroughs and more cures. You can also get involved by contacting your representatives in Congress and urging them to support medical research. Search for your representatives on the websites of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate and contact them via email, text and social media.
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