It has now been over a month since the 5% across the board budget cuts, known as the sequester, were signed into effect. Across the country, the foretold effects of decreased grant moneys and halted projects are now becoming a reality. Rebecca Riggins, an assistant professor at Georgetown University’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, studies breast cancer. In particular, her lab is investigating how hormones are involved in gene-based drug resistance to medications given to treat breast cancer.
Riggins was recently informed she may lose as much as 50% of funding shared by Virginia Tech and the Fox Chase Cancer Center. Riggins’ breast cancer tumor samples now remain stored in the freezer, instead of being used as planned.1
Although NIH dollars may be scarce, research grants from other avenues are still being awarded. The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center has recently awarded over $10 million in grants to the Harvard Medical School, Boston Children’s Hospital, and other institutions in the Boston area. The grant money will renovate labs and create a Laboratory of Systems Pharmacology. This lab is designed to be a multidisciplinary hub to support clinical trials and drug development using proteomics and advanced imaging combined with extensive computational analyses and model building.2
Researchers continue to voice their concern regarding effects of sequestration on biomedical research. On April 8th, a rally was held in Washington to protest the funding cuts.3 The rally coincided with the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). The demonstration drew support from over 200 organizations and included testimony from lawmakers, cancer patients, advocates, and others. AACR CEO, Margaret Foti, read statements in support of research from Francis Collins, Director of the NIH, and from President Barack Obama.
A recent article from Science magazine suggests the need for change in the university research system. Researchers have relied on the same system for the past 70 years, and we are painfully becoming aware of the instabilities as a result of a drop of just 5% in funding. While the sequester has brought about some uncertainty ahead for researchers, the hope is that some reform of the current research system will take place.4
1. Tirrell, M. (2013) ‘Tumors on ice as budget impasse freezes medical research‘, Bloomberg Business Report, published online, April 3, 2013
2. Baldassari, E. (2013) ‘Harvard med. school granted $5M for systems pharmacology lab‘, Cantabrigia, published online, April 8, 2013
3. Kaiser, J. (2013) ‘Researchers and advocates gather in Washington, D.C., to protest cuts to biomedical research‘, Science, published online, April 8, 2013
4. Benderly, B.L. (2013) ‘What sequestration reveals about science‘, Science Careers, published online, April 11, 2013