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rally for medical research

UB, RPCI, HWI underscore impact of sequestration

By SUE WUETCHER

Published April 11, 2013

As thousands of advocates from across the country gathered in Washington, D.C., on April 8 to rally in support of medical research funding, representatives of UB, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute joined Rep. Brian Higgins at a Buffalo rally to raise awareness about the local impact of sequestration.

“Sequestration budget cuts will have a devastating effect on training programs in UB professional schools—on physicians, dentists and pharmacists—because many students rely on federal support to have the opportunity for professional training,” Timothy F. Murphy, senior associate dean for clinical and translational research in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, told those gathered at RPCI to express their support and watch the rally in Washington via live online streaming video.

“I am also very concerned about the effect that budget cuts will have on our ability to train the next generation of biomedical researchers,” Murphy said. “Training researchers is critical for us to develop better and more cost-effective health care. An environment without adequate support for research will drive trainees away from careers in biomedical research.”

Federal funding for medical research continues to decline, and the rally—both in Washington and Buffalo—was designed to raise awareness about the critical need for a sustained investment in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal agencies that fund research and other programs to improve health and save lives.

The NIH faces a $1.6 billion cut this year from the budget reductions known as sequestration. More than 80 percent of the budget is awarded through extramural funding to research institutions across the country. These impacts will be felt in communities across the country, including Buffalo.

“Building health-related research is not like building an interstate highway system,” noted Eaton Lattman, HWI executive director. “Once the capital expense for roadways has been made, maintenance is cheaper. In research, we are always in the construction phase, setting out in new directions with brand-new ideas, technologies and equipment.”

More than $120 million in federal medical research funding is awarded annually to UB, RPCI and HWI. According to NIH Director Francis Collins, every NIH grant supports seven high-quality jobs.  The current threat to funding will impact not only jobs, but also development of new drugs, devices and tools that these scientists are on the verge of discovering.

“This is probably the most exciting time in science, with the knowledge of the human genome and the dawn of personalized medicine,” said RPCI President and CEO Donald L. Trump. “But these cuts threaten that progress and dash hopes for millions of Americans.”

Rep. Brian Higgins pointed out that the only failure in research “is when you quit or are forced to quit due to lack of funding.”

“First and foremost, medical research saves lives, a priceless gift for families touched by disease, and still medical discovery serves the dual outcome of finding more cost-effective treatments and reducing health care costs overall.”

Some 50 researchers from RPCI, the only comprehensive cancer center in New York State outside Manhattan, attended the rally in Washington.