During President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address, he challenged researchers to obtain “a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race.” This goal will be much more difficult to attain with so-called sequestration cuts looming ahead.
The sequester is slated to begin on March 1, 2013, as part of an attempt to reduce 1.2 trillion dollars of debt over the next 10 years. As a result, federal funding will be reduced by 5.1 percent to all disciplines of research and development. While there is still time for elected officials to come up with an alternative plan, the threat of the sequester has brought many research groups into a near panic, and for good reason. According to the United for Medical Research group, The National Institutes of Heath (NIH) had an estimated budget of $57.8 billion and funded approximately 402,000 jobs. With the proposed sequester, those numbers will decrease to $3 billion, resulting in an estimated loss of 20,500 jobs. California is estimated to be one of hardest hit, losing 3,028 jobs and 170.1 million in funding.
All disciplines of science will be affected by the sequester, including the growing field of proteomics. Targeted proteomics was recognized as the 2012 research method of the year by Nature for its success at improving protein and biomarker validations through advancements in mass spectrometry. Proteomics research is dependent on grant funding from the NIH. Without funding, research groups in the United States will not be able to keep up with other researchers competing in the global sector.
Proteomics techniques have been employed in the search for diagnostic biomarkers of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, as well as infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria. There are also projects currently underway to map the human proteome and find better treatments for cancers. A decrease in funding will only slow these research efforts and make it more difficult for researchers to be successful.
Sean Davidson, a researcher involved in protein research at the University of Cincinnati, explained to United for Medical Research how important NIH dollars are to furthering his research: “I cannot stress enough that NIH grants are the lifeblood of my research aimed at ways to boost the body’s natural defenses against heart attack and stroke.”
Davidson further cautioned that the loss of funding could prevent established researchers from doing their work, which would eventually prevent the next generation of scientists from continuing today’s research. Researchers across the country are becoming increasingly vocal against the cuts and are urging lawmakers to find a solution to the fiscal crisis that will not negatively impact scientific research.