How NIH funding cuts could affect science and medicine

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How NIH funding cuts could affect science and medicine

27 Mar, 2017


President Donald Trump recently sent a budget proposal to Congress that includes an 18.3% or $5.8 billion cut in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This cut in spending could have far reaching impacts for scientists and academic medical institutions around the country.

Importantly, Congress has yet to approve the budget proposal and probably will not approve it in its current state. Congress has a history of funding the NIH well across party lines and will hopefully continue to do so because of the disease advocates on both sides of the aisle who promote research funding.

Still, the NIH could possibly see budget cuts, which would have far reaching effects across the country. Less than 5% of the NIH’s budget goes to the government scientists who work for the NIH to distribute the funds, while 10% goes to other government scientists. An overwhelming 80% of the budget goes directly to scientists and physician-scientists around the country to fund innovative research projects, centers for research and treatment, and training programs. Scientists with NIH funding are leaders in their fields and this funding allows them to make discoveries, some of which may find their way into your own therapeutic regiment, if ever needed.

Furthermore, NIH funding serves as a source of financial stability for academic medical institutions who rely on the funding to support their scientists’ research. These institutions usually have the diverse and complex patient population to direct scientists in their goals, but researchers need the funding support to buttress their non-revenue producing, yet crucial scientific efforts.

Not only does NIH funding support medical and research institutions, but also can fortify the economy of an entire city, as is the case with Houston, Texas, whose scientists in the medical center received about half a billion in NIH funding in 2016. The high rigor of research happening in Houston has begun to attract biomedical technology companies to the city creating a second important industry in Houston next to oil. When oil prices fell sharply in the past few years, the healthcare and biomedical technology industry helped keep the city afloat.

The proposed cuts forebode an administration that does not prioritize science, as also indicated by Trump’s proposed cuts to Department of Energy projects and climate change research. By not supporting the scientific efforts and development of the leading scientists in our nation, we leave ourselves vulnerable to simply living in the status quo when us or our loved ones fall ill.

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