Opal’s lab recently discovered a connection between motor dysfunction in mouse models of SCA1 and VEGF, a protein that promotes the growth of blood vessels. His lab wants to study this link in patients, but whether clinical studies can begin will ultimately depend on receiving grants from the NIH next year.
This doomsday scenario has some wondering: is U.S. biological research too dependent on the NIH? At many universities, the NIH pays for almost everything: grad students, professor salaries and equipment. Nature published an analysis on December 6 week that suggests this relationship can actually stifle scientific ingenuity. But even the study’s author, John Ioannidis, believes research funding “should be dramatically increased overall, and even more so for investigators with bold ideas.”
Last week the Associated Medical Schools of New York held a press conference urging Congress to find a resolution. One in 10 doctors in the U.S. is trained in New York, and medical centers are among the state’s biggest employers. The New York economy stands to lose approximately $1.25 billion in 2013 if the NIH budget cuts are made.
“It would imperil thousands of people,” said Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who was joined at the meeting by fellow U.S. House representatives Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), academic deans from NYC-based medical centers and patient advocates, including 14-year-old cancer survivor Brianna Commerford.
Fighting back tears during her testimony, Brianna expressed her gratitude for the scientists who discovered the drug that saved her life. “No kid should have to endure the pain and suffering that comes with a cancer diagnosis,” she says. “Research is a sign of hope for these kids and their families. Taking funds away will certainly take the hope away…from everybody.”