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Progress threatened by flat funding for NIH

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    Progress threatened by flat funding for NIH

    New report: America's scientific and medical progress threatened by flat funding for NIH

    Leading US universities call for increased NIH funding to protect health, retain nation's scientists, shore up US global leadership in research

    (Washington, D.C.) – Years of stagnant budgets outpaced by inflation threaten the progress of biomedical research and could thwart advances in treatments that are within reach, nine of the nation's most preeminent scientific and medical institutions told Congress today. In a new report on the status of U.S. medical research and its funding, the group explained how perennially flat funding of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has halted promising research in mid-stream, challenged seasoned researchers to continue to achieve scientific progress, and threatened the future of young investigators pursuing careers in academic research. And, if left unaddressed, these problems could undermine U.S. global leadership in biomedical research, the report warns.

    "........The report argues that research momentum gains have slowed, and in some cases may be lost, if flat funding continues. For example, in the fight against cancer, "The number of drugs moving into the pipeline that are based on our new, more profound genetic and molecular understanding of cancer is extraordinary—and there's no money to handle the testing of these compounds," said Joan Brugge, Ph.D., who chairs the Department of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School.

    A similar situation faces the quest to cure spinal cord and brain injuries. "Ten years ago, the search for treatment of spinal cord injury was a daunting and hopeless task," said Stephen Strittmatter, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of neurology and neurobiology at Yale University's School of Medicine. Today that is changing, in part due to the discovery of NOGO, a molecule that prevents regeneration of spinal cord nerves. Scientists are investigating whether the molecule can be inhibited, allowing the spinal cord and neurons in the brain to repair themselves.

    "The neurological sciences are on the launching pad of a revolution," according to Strittmatter. "We are at a juncture where we can begin identifying multiple molecular targets for the neurological diseases that have stymied us for so long. Without funding, they may go undiscovered, and we will have only weakly effective therapies."