Future of biomedical research funding after midterms in question

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    The fate of the Affordable Care Act has been a hot-button issue following the midterm elections.

    But federal biomedical research funding, which pumped more than $800 million into the Philadelphia area last fiscal year, has not.

     

    “The concern I have is that no one that I’m aware of has even talked about this,” said Wistar Institute president Russel Kaufman.

    “The election’s over, we have a GOP majority in the House and in the Senate, and for the future of health care and the biomedical research in the United States, we need to have a policy and we need to have a commitment to it,” Kaufman said. “And I don’t even hear anybody talking about it.”

    National Institutes of Health awards in the three congressional districts that contain parts of Philadelphia dropped by almost $40 million in 2013, when the Washington sequester slashed 5.1 percent from science agency budgets.

    That funding was back up in fiscal year 2014 to higher than pre-sequester levels in Philadelphia. But nationally, only about half of the money cut during sequester has been restored.

    Beltway insiders say science research funding is unlikely to increase with the new balance of power in D,C.

    “It’s not just a question of the gridlock,” said American Physical Society spokesman Michael Lubell. “It is reduced spending levels, and I think they’re going to remain.”

    Republican senators, Lubell said, see themselves as having been sent to Washington to hold the line on spending.

    “I think they’re going to do it,” Lubell said.

    Local institutions lament that volatile NIH funding in the past few years has made it difficult to craft long-term budget plans essential for biomedical research projects.

    Disclosure: The Wistar Institute supports WHYY.

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