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Susan D.
Democrat CA 53

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  • The Decline in U.s. Research

    by Representative Susan A. Davis

    Posted on 2013-12-11

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    DAVIS of California. I thank Congresswoman Speier for having this Special Order today because the focus on NIH--you know, for so many families, it actually comes down to care for their loved one. That is what they know can happen as a result of proper granting at appropriate levels for the NIH. Simply put, it is really vital to the Nation's health. Without NIH funding, we will not see the breakthroughs that we have seen in the past. NIH funding has led to cures. It has led to treatments and preventions for truly some of the most horrific diseases of our day afflicting everyone.

    You know, diseases don't pick and choose between infants and seniors, lower, middle and, we might say, upper class. They don't distinguish. It is kind of equal opportunity for all, and that is why they have to be targeted.

    I have been a consistent coleader of the annual NIH appropriations letter, requesting that the House appropriate full funding for the NIH, and the return to full funding is absolutely essential.

    NIH is unique in its function. We know that we have an active private sector in our country. That is wonderful. And we certainly see that in my community of San Diego, and my colleague Congressman Peters talked about this earlier.

    But the private sector simply does not have the ability to replace public investment in the NIH. They don't have it. That kind of basic research in science has to come from the United States Government. That is where it has always come from. It has come from there when we even look at the advancements that we have had in technology. And it certainly makes a difference when we think about what we are doing and what our friends, our allies around the world, and even some who are not allies, are doing in this area. So we have got to be competitive. It doesn't make any sense not to be.

    We know that the NIH conducts and funds research that is just too expensive--too expensive and too risky for private industry to undertake a loan; and it has led us to major advancements in the understanding of diseases like Alzheimer's, cancer, and Parkinson's.

    The research coming out of and the grants coming from NIH are a huge driver of our biotechnology industry; and that, in turn, contributes heavily to our economy. Particularly in San Diego, we see that every single day because that is where the hundreds of jobs, good-paying jobs that allow people to really reach their potential and be purposeful about their work, that is where that comes from.

    NIH funding keeps researchers and graduate students employed doing [[Page H7678]] what they do best, investigating answers to our most complex medical mysteries: cancer, premature birth, heart disease, and so on. I have had these young scientists in my office talking about the fact that they may not stay with the field, a field that they love, because they can't get the grants. As we cut back, only the most experienced scientists get those grants, and they are good. But our young people may be even better, but we have got to give them a chance. We have got to give them a chance to move forward and do that.

    More than 80 percent of the NIH budget goes to over 300,000 research personnel at more than 2,500 universities and research institutions throughout the United States. So that is affecting a lot more than California. It is affecting our colleagues around the country, and maybe they don't even realize what an impact that has.

    In San Diego, we are fortunate. We have got a lot of researchers, a lot of scientists working hard; and they received $1.13 billion in NIH funding in 2012. It has sparked major breakthroughs, brings jobs to the region, and creates potential breakthroughs for millions around the country.

    So we are doing our part; but, tragically, the sequestration requires NIH to cut 5 percent, or $1.55 billion, of its fiscal year 2013 budget. NIH must apply the cut evenly across the board, the way things are today. That is why we have to change that. I hope we will be able to do that. NIH must apply the cut evenly across all programs, projects, and activities which are primarily NIH institutes and centers. This means that every area of medical research will be affected by that. Every area. Not just the few that maybe we think don't need the help, but every area. This is an irrational, backwards-thinking policy that will harm millions of Americans--current patients and future ones--and cost us millions in economic output.

    As a result of the sequester and the slashing of NIH funding, already approximately 640 fewer competitive research project grants will be issued from what we have already done; approximately 750 fewer new patients admitted to the NIH Clinical Center; no increase in stipends for National Research Service Award recipients in 2013; and a delay in medical progress.

    You know, these medical breakthroughs that we have that benefit many of our patients, many of our constituents--and I know I have friends who have been the beneficiaries of some of those breakthroughs--they just don't happen overnight. In almost all instances, those discoveries result from years of incremental research to understand how diseases start and progress. Even after the cause and the potential drug target of disease is discovered, it takes an average of 13 years and $1 billion to develop a treatment for that target.

    And what is difficult is that we know that a lot of people are waiting for some of those clinical trials because you have to be careful how that is done, and that takes time. It takes enough patience, enough people willing to take that risk so that we can see what happens over time. That is so important. And when we start breaking this up, the whole process doesn't work.

    Cuts to research are delaying progress in medical breakthroughs, including development of better cancer drugs that zero in on a tumor with fewer side effects; research on a universal flu vaccine that could fight every strain of influenza without even needing a yearly shot; and the prevention of debilitating chronic conditions that are costly to society and delay development of more effective treatments for common and rare diseases affecting millions of Americans.

    And, as I mentioned earlier, we lose the promising, accomplished scientists and researchers who are leaving the industry because of the loss or inability to get grants.

    We see that faculty at top universities across the country are reporting cutting labor spending by 7 percent and operating with skeleton staffs, severely limiting job opportunities for new researchers. Over 50 percent of scientists surveyed by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology said they had a colleague who has lost his job or expects to soon. Some of the scientists are not coming back. They are going elsewhere. They are going to those areas where we are competing because they can take a more stable position outside of the research sector here in the United States.

    Do we want that? I don't think so. Quite simply, we are inflicting decades of damage with the sequester policy that we have, and I hope that that is going to change. It is not rational to do that. It is cruel. It is backwards. It is insanity.

    Let's join together and undo--what we can agree on in a bipartisan basis--a foolish policy with an untold number of victims from every State and every city and town in this country. Let us work together to restore NIH funding immediately.

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