Cause For Concern | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 90 Issue 27 | p. 4 | Letters
Issue Date: July 2, 2012

Cause For Concern

Department: Letters

The deck of the News of the Week story “Budget Battle 2013 Begins” reads, “Appropriations: Science fares well in House-passed bill” (C&EN, May 21, page 9). The 10.5% increase in funding for NIST and 4.3% for NSF is the good news. The bad news, and it’s dire, is not mentioned; I refer to the lack of any increase for the National Institutes of Health.

That federal agency, which conducts biomedical research on its campus in Bethesda, Md., and also funds research by scientists (many of them chemists in academe) through grants, has suffered declining funding in inflation-adjusted dollars almost every year since 2003. Two organizations, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (a nonpartisan think tank) and United for Medical Research (a coalition of leading research institutions and patient advocates), have just issued a report entitled “Leadership in Decline: Assessing U.S. International Competitiveness in Biomedical Research.” Its findings are cause for much concern: It states that in contrast to the U.S., China, Germany, Britain, and India have significantly increased their financial support for medical research.

In the past, numerous chemists have benefited from NIH grants to fund their research; their numbers are dwindling. Success in application for grants is a competitive process. As one example, the National Cancer Institute, one of the 27 institutes and centers that make up NIH, is funding merely 7% of grant applicants today, far fewer than it did in the past. One wonders whether the discovery of important new therapeutic drugs for cancer and other diseases might escape the now limited endeavors of medicinal chemists as a result of this decline in support.

By Anthony B. Mauger
Kensington, Md.

 
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