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Words to Dollars

With some 85 percent of research grant applications being rejected, Maria Freire, the head of the Foundation for the NIH, writes at the Hill that times are tough for new investigators.

For every 10 postdoctoral fellows who are seeking a tenure-track faculty position, fewer than two will succeed, she adds, and for those who remain in academia, the average age at which a new PI receives a major grant has risen to 45.

"As that age rises, the time apportioned for a scientist to make significant, career-defining discoveries shrinks," Freire says.

At the same time, the National Institutes of Health has lost nearly a quarter of its purchasing power during the last 12 years, she notes.

While there is broad, bipartisan support for biomedical research among members of Congress, Freire wonders whether "aspirational language," such as that of the 21st Century Cures Act — a bill calling for increased NIH funding that was unanimously approved recently by the House Energy and Commerce Committee — will "be translated into action when it comes time to pass the budget."

"In the budget negotiations for the new fiscal year … Congress needs to translate politically popular pledges of support into actual (lifesaving) support by approving increased funding levels for the NIH and the Food and Drug Administration to ensure that basic research findings are translated into practical uses," Freire says.