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Jaime Jensen, Published February 26 2013

Letter: Sequestration will slow, halt basic biomedical research

On Friday, core government functions such as biomedical research funding, education and public safety will experience deep cuts under an arcane budget tool known as “sequestration.” If lawmakers can’t put politics aside to avoid it, these cuts will compromise our health, nation’s security and safety, global competitiveness and economic growth. Cutting-edge research on cures for cancer will be stifled and, of interest to the local university population, funding toward university biomedical research endeavors will be complicated dramatically as competition for already limited NIH and NSF budgets will become even more aggressive.

According to experts, sequestration will cost the NIH approximately $1.5 billion in research funding, which could result in 2,000 unfunded research grants, the potential loss of 33,000 jobs across the U.S., and a $4.5 billion decline in economic activity; this would cripple the nation’s status as a pioneer in biomedical research. Additionally, the NIH budget has already seen a nearly 20 percent decrease in funding after inflation in the past decade.

In an era when scientific advancement has observed incredible progress, even with funding limitations, we cannot afford to halt such influential programs by further restraining our investment in biotechnology, drug development and health care.

I urge Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., to work with their colleagues in Congress to find a balanced approach to reduce the deficit.

Only through balance can we avoid these devastating cuts and put our nation on a sustainable fiscal path. As a student of the biomedical sciences, my future career depends upon continued funding of research efforts; however, of greater importance is the impact sequestration would have upon our nation as a whole. We cannot hope to remain a global leader in the biomedical sciences if a reasonable fiscal agreement is not reached; the impact of sequestration on NIH and NSF-funded research will be immediate and devastating.

NIH and NSF research funding is an investment in our country’s future.

Jensen, Fargo, is biochemistry graduate student at North Dakota State University.