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Proposed cuts to NIH funding would devastate the scientific community

 John Hunter, M.D.
John G. Hunter, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Dan Dorsa
Daniel M. Dorsa, Ph.D.

Last week the White House unveiled its 2018 Budget Blueprint. As the state’s only academic medical center, we are concerned about the proposed nearly $6 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health, which is about 20 percent of the NIH’s total budget.

As a scientific community, OHSU relies heavily on NIH funding to carry out life-saving research. In 2016 alone, OHSU scientists received more than $234 million in NIH funding, by far the largest source of funding for research at OHSU.  

Treatments and cures for some of the world’s deadliest diseases would not be possible without the basic and translational NIH-funded research discoveries that happen in the lab. This size of a cut to NIH funding could potentially halt life-saving research. Not only that, the impact could be immediate because the NIH generally awards grants in five-year increments.

NIH funding also helps OHSU train the next generation of scientists. If these cuts come through, we could lose an entire generation of new scientists.

Philanthropic funding, while important, is not enough. Drug manufacturers and the health care industry as a whole rely on basic science discoveries to bring life-saving therapies hatched in the lab to the commercial market.

The budget cuts would also have an economic impact to the state of Oregon. In 2016, the state of Oregon received more than $274 million in NIH funding. Besides funding university research, these dollars create jobs and foster new businesses that spur economic growth. Simply put, these cuts would have a ripple effect across the entire state.

We understand this is the first step in the federal budget process. Oregon’s entire congressional delegation has supported the NIH budget in the past, and OHSU will continue to work with them to protect it. Congress has traditionally been a strong bi-partisan supporter of the NIH and we hope they will continue that support.

Daniel M. Dorsa, Ph.D., is senior vice president for research at OHSU; and John G. Hunter, M.D., F.A.C.S., is interim dean of the OHSU School of Medicine. 

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