U.S. losing its edge after cuts to medical research funding, Casey says

     Senator Bob Casey greets colon cancer survivor Andy Lara at a Philadelphia roundtable discussion on research funding cuts.  (Maiken Scott/WHYY)

    Senator Bob Casey greets colon cancer survivor Andy Lara at a Philadelphia roundtable discussion on research funding cuts. (Maiken Scott/WHYY)

    Medical researchers and patients met with U.S. Sen. Bob Casey in Philadelphia at the American Cancer Society to discuss the impact of federal funding cuts on their work and lives.

     

    Across-the-board federal funding cuts that started in March have slashed the budgets of the National Institutes of Health — and science labs and universities in the region are feeling the results. Casey listened Tuesday as researchers spoke about laying off staff, slowing down promising projects, and losing highly qualified scientists.

    It’s “the best of times, and the worst of times,” Thomas Curran of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia said of the current situation.

    “At no time in history have we had so much in terms of science impacting medicine, delivering new cures,” said Curran. “But, we have to close down research programs, we have to fire faculty, we have to reduce staff.”

    Curran, who works on brain tumor research, said he had to slow down hiring because an NIH grant that he had was cut by 55 percent.

    Casey said reduced funding affects the country’s standing as a producer of world-class research.

    “We’re losing our edge when it comes to medical research, and it’s not because we don’t have the best doctors and we don’t have the best researchers, simply because of funding,” said Casey.

    Casey also heard from patients who described how medical research affected their lives.

    Colon cancer survivor Andy Lara kept his statement simple.

    “I wouldn’t be here today, if it wasn’t for the past research that was done for cancer,” said Lara, whose wife is currently battling breast cancer.

    Casey vowed to fight for more funding for medical research, calling it an investment in hope for families, as well as an investment in jobs.

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