With the fiscal cliff in the rear-view mirror, the next economic pressure is the impending spending cuts and debt ceiling crisis in the coming months. Although cuts to the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have not been mentioned so far, the American Society of Hematology (ASH) is voicing its support of NIH funding at levels at least as high as the current levels to support hematology research, while ASH also initiates a program of funding bridge grants.
“Our concern is that NIH funding will be an afterthought,” said ASH President-Elect Janis Abkowitz, MD, the Hematology Division Head, Clement A. Finch Professor of Medicine, and Adjunct Professor of Genome Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle.
Dr Abkowitz believes that cuts to the NIH budget could have a lasting impact on research that ranges from clinically oriented “to research that might take place in zebra fish or mice…the NIH funds ideas, and the concern is that we will be sacrificing ideas for the future and the competitiveness we have not only in the world economy but in terms of healthcare delivery.”
A survey unveiled at the ASH 2012 annual meeting demonstrates how critical NIH funding has been to the success of hematology research. The survey represented responses from 1040 presenters of abstracts at this year’s meeting, including 415 US presenters.
Nearly 66% of the US presenters reported that they rely on NIH funding. In addition, 86% of American abstract presenters reported that they had referenced an NIH-funded study for their own research over the course of their careers.
The survey also reveals a high level of concern among researchers and hematologists/oncologists about the impact of reduced NIH funding on the field of hematology and patient care.
Of 412 US respondents, 75% said that when it comes to medical research and development, they are “extremely concerned” about the threat of NIH budget cuts and the impact on their future research.
Of the 1040 respondents, 52% said that they have referenced an NIH-funded study for their own research, and 44% indicated that they were “extremely concerned” about the threat of NIH budget cuts.
Mid-level researchers and their mentors are getting discouraged by the difficulty in obtaining federal research grants and are leaving the field, she says, leaving a gap in the medical science workforce.
ASH Launches Bridge
In a recent editorial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr Abkowitz and her coauthors announced an ASH program designed to “assist medical research through this potential chasm in funding” (Hromas R, et al. JAMA. 2012;308:2343-2344).
The ASH bridge grants totaling $9 million will support basic, clinical, and translational research in hematology; the grants will require that the researcher’s institution provides a 50% match of the funds. Dr Abkowitz and her coauthors caution, however, that bridge support from medical societies is not sustainable, and that federal and state funding is essential to maintain excellence.