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A Plea to Spare NIH from Sequestration

The California Healthcare Institute is pleading with Congress to spare the National Institutes of Health from an estimated $2.5 billion cut that would occur if sequestration takes effect, saying such a reduction in funding could compromise scientific innovation.

With sequestration looming, which would trigger about 8 percent cuts to NIH funding, CHI, a non-profit advocacy group for the biomedical community in California, is asking leaders from both sides of the aisle in the US Senate and House of Representatives to protect NIH funding "as part of a thoughtful and deliberative approach to deficit reduction."

In the letter — which is addressed to Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Rep Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — CHI says that California's life science industry employs 270,000 workers, pays more than $20 billion in annual wages, and accounts for $18.6 billion in global exports. The success of the industry, it says, has been fueled by NIH and venture capital funding.

If sequestration occurs, the result would be a $2.5 billion cut to NIH, translating to a cut of 2,000 grants, CHI says, citing a report from the Congressional Budget Office. In addition to researchers, such a reduction would negatively impact vendors who depend on them for business.

CHI President and CEO David Gollaher adds in an article in Xconomy that United for Medical Research, a coalition seeking to increase funding to NIH, found that cuts to NIH from sequestration would lead to 33,000 fewer jobs nationwide, including 5,000 in California, and a decrease of $4.5 billion in economic activity.

CHI also says that the cuts could prevent scientific innovation. It notes that NIH supported work by Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen that led to the development of recombinant DNA technology. NIH also was a driving force behind the Human Genome Project.

"As we look to the future, we are confident that scientific breakthroughs will lead to similar cases," CHI says. "That is why we are so concerned with sequestration and cuts to the NIH budget."

The letter has wide support from the biotech community. More than 40 organizations have signed the letter, including Life Technologies; Hologic/Gen-Probe; Thermo Fisher Scientific; Genomic Health; The Scripps Research Institute; and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies; as well as venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

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