To the School of Medicine Family:
Medical research, which offers hope for millions of Americans and the promise of new technologies and jobs, will be devastated with sequestration cuts that have now taken effect.
The U.S. Senate Budget Committee estimates that sequestration will force a 5.1 percent cut in non-defense discretionary spending in Fiscal Year 2013. Those cuts will come on top of an additional $900 billion in discretionary spending cuts mandated over the next decade.
Funding reductions to the National Institutes of Health, the major supporter of academic medical research, are now in effect. They will result in devastating cuts that halt progress assisting millions of patients and their families. This comes when the nation’s population is diversifying and aging, and the U.S. competes to hold its standing as a force in the global economy. We need greater investment in medical research at this critical period, not less.
Last year alone, Michigan health researchers received $655 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health. All told, $1.02 billion in federal research funding flowed to Michigan, fueling economic activity, jobs and the creation of new companies.
NIH funding for the University Research Corridor, an alliance of Wayne State University, the University of Michigan and Michigan State University that works to transform, strengthen and diversify the state’s economy, totaled $619 million in fiscal year 2012. Michigan benefits greatly from the investment of those research dollars. According to its most recent report, the URC generated $15.5 billion in economic impact statewide in 2011, an increase of 20 percent over 2007. That activity pumped $375 million into state tax coffers, and created more than 74,000 direct and indirect jobs statewide. Since 2002, the URC has resulted in 149 start-up companies, including 18 in 2011.
The $1.5 billion cut to the NIH that comes with sequestration follows a decade in which the agency has seen funding reduced by nearly 20 percent after inflation. NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., has described the impact of the additional cuts as “profound and devastating” for scientific opportunity in our nation.
Sequestration introduces even more uncertainty into this already troubling climate. Because research grants go toward specific projects, often after a competition between researchers from around the country, the true impact of sequestration won’t be known for months.
Even our brightest scientists and physicians may fail to get funding for projects that could yield life-saving discoveries – meaning those discoveries may never get made. Those who have won grants in the past may see some of those funds evaporate before they even arrive.
Medical research cannot be flipped on and off like a light switch. Delays and interruptions caused by loss of funding will result in years of medical advancements halted.
It’s important to remember that not all medical research immediately results in the “aha” moment that brings a cure. Each new finding builds upon the last, resulting in new therapies and treatments that increase quality of life and longevity for patients until a cure can be found.
None of us would volunteer ourselves, or our loved ones, to be the victims who died or suffered for the lack of a new therapy or a cure that comes too late because funding didn’t exist. We must not place hope for millions on the back burner.
Additional slashes in federal research funding will hurt our state as it tries to reinvent itself and its economy from one based on manufacturing to one based on technology. New findings discovered in the laboratory often translate into new companies developing technologies and therapies that advance medical treatment. Those new companies need to hire people, and in Michigan we need all the jobs we can create.
All of our medical universities have been investing in research and related infrastructure – and in the training of the bright young minds who will lead medicine and biomedical science tomorrow. To lose that momentum now will cost Michigan jobs and people.
Valerie M. Parisi, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A.
Wayne State University School of Medicine