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Hidden Costs

Philanthropic funding for biomedical research is growing in the US and elsewhere, but the unseen costs of accepting these grants is causing some universities to check themselves, Nature News writes.

According to the article, many foundations and charitable organizations allocate no more than 10 percent of their grants to cover research overheads like building fees, technicians, and IT support although these indirect costs hike up the price of US research by some 40 percent to 70 percent. That means that institutions that accept these grants have to make up the deficit, which is a costly burden. The University of California system, for example, says it "loses some $300 million a year by accepting grants that do not cover indirect costs," according to Nature News.

Government and other industry funders usually make room for these costs in their grants. But tightening purse strings mean that charitable giving will become more important in the coming year, though some are not sure its worth the cost. "People have been discouraged from applying for grants because the department has to cover the shortfall," Lita Nelsen, director of the technology-licensing office at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, tells Nature News. "We're at the edge here of turning down money."

Scientists have begun pushing back and urging NIH to persuade foundations to revise their grant policies, according to the article. During a recent NIH advisory meeting, Julio Frenk, a physician at the Harvard School of Public Health said that "there needs to be an explanation that universities' costs are real costs, not an illegitimate profit."

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.