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Nobel Prize Winners Worried About U.S. Funding for Research

Nobel Prize Winners Worried About U.S. Funding for Research

The glow of winning the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine hasn’t done a whole lot to chase away the darkness of the current poor funding environment in the U.S. for basic research.

The glow of winning the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine hasn’t done a whole lot to chase away the darkness of the current poor funding environment in the U.S. for basic research. All three winners– Thomas C. Südhof, 57, a physiology professor at Stanford University; Randy Schekman, 64, professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley; and James Rothman, 62, professor of biomedical sciences at Yale University recently expressed concerns about the effect of funding cuts on U.S. science.

Already facing massive challenges with cuts to their budgets, with the shutdown of the American government stretching on, operations at some national labs and other government research organizations have been brought to a standstill. Grant applications to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for example, have been put on hold and basic research at the agency has also been stopped.

Südhof told Bloomberg Businessweek Oct. 8 that funding for the sciences is “imperiled” while Schekman added, “particularly now people need to be reminded that that investment is being eroded and suspended because of government inaction.”

The trio, who shared their Nobel Prize for revealing, in the words of the Nobel Assembly, “the exquisitely precise control system for the transport and delivery of cellular cargo,” said their achievement would not have been possible without funding to laboratory research. That research started without clear benefits to human health, but funding allowed it to expand into greater applications.

Rothman said financial support for such research is dying out, which could have negative impacts on the possibility of discovering treatments for various diseases in the future.

“I had five years of failure before the first initial success,” Rothman said to Bloomberg Businessweek. “That kind of support, there’s less of it now. And that’s a pressing national issue.”

The situation is unlikely to get better any time soon, as there is no end in sight to the current government shutdown.

- With files from Bloomberg BusinessWeek