Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
Last week, news broke that the United States Congress is in disagreement over strategies to cut the federal deficit. As one of the leading educational hubs in the country, the funding currently on the chopping block could incite bad news for Boston. Unless Congress can agree on $1.2 trillion in federal savings by the end of the calendar year, the National Institute of Health’s budget will be cut by 8.2 percent, or about $2.5 billion per year.
According to the Office of Management and Budget, this cut would be just one amendment in the process of sequestration across the board. The implications of these cuts could spell disaster for Boston in particular, however. If these cuts go into effect, hundreds of jobs and grants in the Massachusetts medical field are at risk for loss. Massachusetts receives more money than any other state from the National Institute of Health (NIH). The repercussions of the cuts would hit Harvard Medical labs the hardest, as well as their 16 affiliated hospitals–“five of which rank among the largest hospital recipients of grants from the NIH’s $30 billion annual budget,” according to The Boston Globe.
“It’s like a knife hanging over our heads,” said Bill Chin, executive dean for research at Harvard Medical School. “About a quarter of new grants won’t be funded, and funding will be reduced for current projects that are working on cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and heart disease, all of which have had remarkable advances recently. Ninety percent of our research budget comes from government sources, and the NIH is by far the major source.” Funds would additionally decrease at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Tufts University School of Medicine, and Boston University School of Medicine. All three of these universities have hospital affiliations. Approximately 12 to 15 other college/university and organization budgets would be cut, including at MIT—undoubtedly one of the country’s leading science and technology centers.
An immediate concern for leaders at Boston medical centers is competition. The $2.5 billion cuts could very well introduce a struggle for the remaining funds, negating the recent developments of cooperation among organizations. Research labs and institutions are already preparing for job loss, mainly in research positions and junior faculty. Professor David Scadden, one of the nation’s leading scientists in stem cell research, has already dismissed one of his employees and has frozen two other positions. Just the proposition of these cuts has prompted a sense of urgency in the medical field, and the apprehensions continue to rise.
As Congress continues to negotiate the federal deficit and propositions to the budget, Boston medical professionals and researchers must prepare for the worst. With continuing development and progress in fields that benefit society across the board, the medical cuts will inhibit this present success. The setbacks in biomedical research could effect more than a few assistants in a Harvard lab. Yet, until the budget comes out in January, Boston can only continue their work and wait for the results.