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Budgets and Patients

A trio of young Weill Cornell researchers-in-training have taken to pages of The Hill to lament how federal spending cuts to biomedical research hurt patients, scientists, and the country as a whole, and to urge lawmakers to boost government support.

A cancer researcher, a neuroscientist, and a population health investigator say in a new op-ed in the journal of all things wonkish and legislative in Washington, DC, that science funding has been insufficient for some time and that the nations' "proud scientific legacy in the biomedical sciences is in danger."

Grad students Kari Fischer, Anna Sophia McKenney, and Jeff Russ see a "faltering" biomedical research engine in the US. They point out the NIH's purchasing power has slid by 25 percent, and that even after the recent $1 billion increase the 2014 budget is "shamefully below" what it was before the sequestration.

They say this funding climate will "stifle" the prospects for today's science students, "destroy America's economic competitiveness, and most crucially, prevent medical discoveries for suffering patients."

Lawmakers need to understand that big discoveries that help patients take a long time in development — sometimes decades — and require investments in manpower, they add.

Yet only one in seven US doctoral graduates can become an independent federally funded researcher, they write, and it is hard to blame many of them for choosing other careers.

"Deep economic losses, as well as lost opportunities to save lives, will result as we fail to nourish this important industry…. If we want to prevent future patients from losing their hope of being cured, we cannot afford to under invest in science for even one more year," they write.