Boston med researchers, pols feeling ill over federal health spending cuts

Massachusetts General Hospital mgh boston
Massachusetts General Hospital.
Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki/METRO

Boston’s medical researchers and politicians are feeling ill and despite the Hub being home to some of the nation’s leading medical facilities, the cure for their ailment lies in Washington, D.C.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and some of the city’s leading medical research heads expressed concern on Monday over the looming across-the-board federal spending cuts that could put in danger one of the city’s most important sectors.

If lawmakers don’t come to an agreement on budget cuts and act by March 1, more than $1.2 trillion in automatic government-wide spending cuts over the next 10 years will take effect, which could negatively impact the more than $1 billion Boston facilities typically get each year in National Institutes of Health grants.

“The research these scientists do is mind-blowing, and the idea that Congress could slash their funding next month is mind-boggling,” said Menino. “The doctors … have made it their life’s work to improve people’s lives. I hope in the coming days we can say the same about Congress.”

Leaders from area hospitals and research universities briefed Menino and Warren Monday at Boston Medical Center on the dangers of cuts to NIH research funding.

With various universities, hospitals and medical research facilities in Boston, the city receives more NIH funding than any other city in the nation. In 2011, those facilities in the city received a combined $1.7 billion in funding.

Dr. Bob Kingston, the chief of molecular biology at Massachusetts General Hospital, said one of his biggest concerns is that funding cuts could lead to a cut in the “next generation of great scientists.”

“It’s an issue for people who are 30 to 40 years old who are largely and completely depending on NIH research funding,” said Kingston, who is also a Harvard professor. “Those are the people who are going to be driving research forward in the future and the big issue with cutting NIH funding is that you’re eliminating a generation by dramatically decreasing the ability of those people to stay in science.”

Quoted

“NIH funding plays a key role in supporting life-saving medical research at Boston’s world-class hospitals and universities. Across-the-board spending cuts are bad for Massachusetts and bad for the country.” -Sen. Elizabeth Warren
What’s funded:
NIH grants help fund research on countless illnesses and treatments including:
*A Boston College biologist whose research focuses on immunological cells in a range of illnesses that strike people living with HIV and AIDS was recently awarded a five-year, $2.7 million NIH grant.
*Boston’s colleges and universities received more than $550 million in NIH funding grants in 2011.
*Many of the city’s hospitals receive hundreds of millions of dollars in NIH funding each year. In 2011, MGH topped the list with more than $343 million.

Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.


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