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Senator Mikulski and NIH Director Collins Discuss Impact of Sequestration on Biomedical Research

NIH, Biomedical Research Lost $1.5 Billion in Government Funding

NIH Director Francis Collins

U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski joined Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institutes of Health; Paul B. Rothman, M.D., dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine; and Ronald R. Peterson, president of The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System and EVP of Johns Hopkins Medicine on Monday in calling for an end to federal spending cuts to biomedical research.

“We join together to call for the full funding of the National Institutes of Health,” said Mikulski, chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and an East Baltimore native. “We want to say no to the $1.5 billion cut in sequester. We want to say no to the slash and crash of reckless cuts to American biomedical research.”

Flanked by Johns Hopkins researchers from what Mikulski called “the breakthrough generation,” the group gathered at The Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Center to speak out against large-scale reductions to the nation’s research budget.

Automatic budget cuts, known as “the sequester,” have slowed or stopped many of the nation’s key programs, including those in biomedical research. Cancer research and research in such areas as Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, HIV and neuroscience all have been affected by sequester-related cuts.

“This matters. Cuts have consequences,” said Collins. “I live with this paradox every day: We are at a moment of unprecedented medical research opportunities. We have the chance of making breakthroughs across the board, with many different diseases, because of new insights and new technologies. And yet we are also at a time … of historic threat to support for those breakthroughs. What a strange situation.”

According to Collins, the sequester meant that roughly 700 peer-reviewed grants — including more than a dozen at Johns Hopkins — did not get funded.

“Who knows which one of those grants might have been the next breakthrough in cancer?” Collins asked.

The leaders were joined by Howard County resident Jose Maldonado, a stroke survivor who credits The Johns Hopkins Hospital for much of his recovery. “My stroke was caused by a brain aneurysm, and I was lucky they brought me here to Hopkins,” Maldonado said. An emotional Maldonado thanked Mikulski for her commitment to biomedical research funding.

“If you really want to save money, support these research institutions,” Maldonado said. “Anyone who wants to debate whether sequester is a good idea should come see me. I’m living proof that research is important.”

Mikulski and Collins said they selected Johns Hopkins as the location to speak out about the cutbacks because of the intitution’s role in medical research. Rothman added that, for more than three decades, Johns Hopkins has been a leading recipient of federal funding for research.

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