With over a billion dollars in possible budget cuts, the National Institute of Health may soon cut funding for many research projects at the Yale School of Medicine.
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-3) visited the school on Monday to investigate what impact potential the budget cuts would have on the school’s research projects. In a bill that passed through the House on Feb. 19 and will be reviewed by the Senate next week, roughly $1.6 billion would be cut from the institute’s budget. Yale currently receives $378,805,446 in funds from the institute, not including the funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which are also set to expire this year. Without these funds, many projects would have to be either terminated or stalled.
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“The best and the brightest of our youth have chosen careers in biomedical research,“ said Dr. Robert Alpern, Dean of the Yale School of Medicine. “And we really rely on a knowledge that there will be stable funding.”
DeLauro said that the bill’s proposed cuts would lead to 3,000 less competitive nationwide grants next year, reducing the total number by a third. She also said that the cuts would halt or curtail over 100 clinical trials, and could result in a 29 percent reduction in federal funds for nursing programs.
DeLauro’s visit began with a 30 minute meeting with Alpern, followed by a tour of one of the School of Medicine’s neurology laboratories. Her visit ended with a press conference in front of roughly 20 doctors and members of the press, where she heavily criticized the budget cuts. A survivor of ovarian cancer who will celebrate her 25th cancer-free year in March, DeLauro said she would not be alive today without American medical research.
“What a loss, what a loss for this country, what a loss for the world,” said DeLauro. “And be mindful, there are no vacuums in this area; if it’s not the United States moving forward with these discoveries, other countries will do it.”
After meeting with Alpern, DeLauro was shown one of the school’s laboratories by Dr. Stephen Strittmatter, a professor of neurobiology.
Strittmatter told the News that any small cut to the institute’s funding would have drastic effects on his lab, which receives roughly 70 percent of its funding from the institute.
“When there isn’t financial security, researchers stop working on innovative projects and instead focus on safer, more fundable projects because they’re scared to death they’ll lose their jobs,” he said.
Dr. Daniel Colón-Ramos, an assistant professor who also studies neuroscience, said to the News Monday that the budget cuts would create a disproportionate cut in scientific progress.
“It’s not like a factory, where … they can cut 2 percent of the jobs and that might reduce productivity by 2 percent,” he said. “Instead, a 2 percent cut in scientific funding can lead to a 50 percent cut in innovation.”
After the conference, the congresswoman left for a train back to Washington, where she hopes to pass a two week delay on the institute’s budget cut.
Strittmatter and Colón-Ramos also cited the possibility of the United States losing its role as a global leader in biomedical research.
“The United states has become a leader in biomedical research,” said Alpern. “If we ever lose our leadership in this area it will be very difficult to get it back.”
In 2010, Congress had given the National Health of Institute roughly 31 billion dollars. President Obama had asked Congress to instead raise the budget by $1 billion for 2011.