Kenneth Polonsky, MD, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, Dean of the Division of the Biological Sciences, and Dean of the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago joined 18 other medical school deans to criticize cuts in federal spending on biomedical research, in an editorial published today in the journal Science Translational Medicine. They warn that persistent uncertainty about research funding discourages innovation and drives talented researchers out of the field:
As leaders of U.S. academic medical centers, we are committed to providing high-quality patient care while using our limited resources effectively and efficiently. But we cannot achieve these goals nor meet the health care challenges of an aging and increasingly diverse population without acquiring new knowledge about human health and disease to support the development of creative therapeutic strategies. Moreover, our nation’s economy has depended on discovery and invention, the ultimate products of scientific research. Thus, biomedical research is crucial to the U.S. national agenda, and academic medical centers—the provenance for much of this research—are at particular risk.
The authors note that declining revenue from clinical care also threatens the research environment. In the past, clinical revenue has supplemented government funding for scientific research, but with increased focus on controlling health care costs, this source of support is shrinking as well.
Congressional proposals like the 21st Century Cures Act announced last year by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the authors argue, would stabilize the funding environment and allow institutions to plan investments in infrastructure and support the careers of scientists.
“Academic medical centers are committed to leading the national effort to provide high-quality care to all Americans,” they wrote. “But achievement of this goal requires a stable economic platform that supports the full spectrum of biomedical and engineering research, from the investigation of fundamental mechanisms of human biology and behavior to the translation of such discoveries to patients, communities, and populations.”