Sequestration Is a Disaster For NIH–And Potentially All of Us

You know all those bad predictions about NIH funding you might have heard about? Guess what? Conventional wisdom was wrong–it’s worse that previously thought (boldface mine):

An already stagnant budget was made worse this spring when Congress and the White House failed to prevent sequestration. The NIH was forced to cut $1.7 billion from its budget by the end of September, lowering its purchasing power about 25 percent, compared with 2003.

Roughly six months into sequestration, however, the situation is worse than predicted. Internal NIH estimates show that it will end up cutting more than the 700 research grants the institutes initially planned to sacrifice in the name of austerity. If lawmakers fail to replace sequestration at the end of September, that number could rise above 1,000 as the NIH absorbs another 2 percent budget cut on top of the 5 percent one this fiscal year.

It’s worth laying out what this means. It’s not that labs will be doing less–those ‘internal’ cuts have been happening for years. What this means is that entire lines of research, big and small, are killed off. And it’s not just scientists that will take it in the chops:

The real-world implications of irrationality, Collins added, are quite grave. His most vivid example is the flu vaccine, which he says could be as close as five years away from discovery. NIH officials are working to insulate that program from budget cuts. But sequestration will, at the very least, mean that research goes slower than it could.

“If you want to convert this into real meaningful numbers, that means people are going to die of influenza five years from now because we don’t yet have the universal vaccine,” he said. “And God help us if we get a worldwide pandemic that emerges in the next five years, which takes a long time to prepare a vaccine for. If we had the universal vaccine, it would work for that too.

“The clock’s been ticking on the potential of the next eruption of a pandemic outbreak from South Asia or wherever. And we’ve gotten lucky so far [that it hasn't happened]. But are we going to stay lucky? So, how can you justify doing anything other than pulling out all the stops in that kind of circumstance? And yet we’re prevented from doing so.

We are governed by craven fools and audacious sociopaths.

And the congregation responds: This is yet another reason why we can’t have nice things.

This entry was posted in Fucking Morons, Funding, Influenza, NIH, Public Health. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Sequestration Is a Disaster For NIH–And Potentially All of Us

  1. Anne lykke says:

    This IS important. So cut something else. Duh.

  2. Anne lykke says:

    Actually this reminds me of the cancer institute in Buffalo that audaciously averred to Congress that a cure for cancer, (all cancer!) was three years away–early 70’s. It’s fun to get hysterical. Both the flu and cancer are growth industries, if they were cured, a sizable fraction of our sickness industry and GDP would take a hit. Since we are all economic units now, I’d need to see a study on this trade off.

  3. Pingback: What we’re reading: Species delimitation failure, the twisty history of a retrovirus, and breeding a better tomato | The Molecular Ecologist

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