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Bill Seeks to Restore Minnesota Genomics Partnership Funding

By a GenomeWeb Staff Reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A state legislator in Minnesota wants to see funding for a genomics-focused partnership between the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic, which was trimmed last year and is expected to be cut again in response to state deficits, restored to a funding level of $8 million for each of the next two years.

Rep. Mike Benson (R – Rochester) has introduced a bill that would save the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics from cuts of $413,000 this year and next year that would leave the effort with around $6.5 million in funding per year from the state.

The original budget for the partnership was to be $8 million per year on a continuing basis, starting in 2005.

The Minnesota State government has been looking for ways to manage a state shortfall that at one point was believed to be nearly $6.2 billion over the next two years, but which recently was lowered to an expected $5.03 billion.

Eric Wieben, director of Mayo Clinic's Genomics Research Center, told GenomeWeb Daily News earlier this month that the cuts at the partnership had already caused "a very difficult situation," where some planned projects may be put on hold, but he said he would continue to let lawmakers know about the partnership's value.

"We feel that we've got a really good track record of success, and that we've done good things that the state has been able to invest in us so far, and we have a lot of programs and projects ongoing that we think are very worthy of support," Wieben told GWDN at the time.

Also under the Benson proposal, the base-level appropriation for the Minnesota Partnership would be $8 million each year starting in 2014.

The proposal, which is attached to a higher education funding bill, has passed out of the Minnesota House of Representatives' committee on higher education and has moved to the ways and means committee, Rep. Benson told GenomeWeb Daily News today.

Benson said that although the state "still has a very large balancing act between projected spending and projected revenue" to make up, he feels that the case for supporting the Minnesota Partnership is a strong one, as it includes the benefits of economic development and research.

It is "easy to point to the medical benefits of this research," Benson said, noting that one of the Minnesota Partnership's central goals is to track down possible cures for diabetes, for example. "The economic impact [of such a treatment] would be tremendous."

But from a "practical and local" perspective, Benson added, the partnership has created about 2,700 jobs so far and it has brought in extra revenue to the region through the winning of many grants from the National Institutes of Health.

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