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Scientists Tell Senate That Ongoing Weak NIH Funding May Strip US of Biotech Leadership Role

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A group of scientists from top-tier medical research facilities in the US yesterday warned Congress that if current funding levels for the National Institutes of Health do not increase, aggressive research into many serious illnesses begin to wane and the US may begin to lose its leadership role in the biomedical world.
The researchers, who testified at the Senate Appropriations Labor-HHS Committee, described findings from a report they published entitled “Within Our Grasp – Or Slipping Away: Assuring a New Era of Scientific and Medical Progress.”
Together with NIH director Elias Zerhouni, the authors, from Harvard University, the Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, and elsewhere, said they represent “a Group of Concerned Universities and Research Institutions” that claims that the “NIH budget has been virtually frozen since 2003 and has shrunk by at least 8 percent after inflation is considered.”
The report, which can be found here, said that the doubling of the NIH budget between 1998 and 2003 fuelled many advances, but stagnant funding levels since then has stalled many research initiatives and forced many researchers to spend more time hunting for funds than in the lab.
The report claims that the proposed fiscal 2008 budget will effectively erase what the NIH received in fiscal 2007 and suggests that decreased NIH funding has discouraged innovation by channeling less money to young scientists.

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