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Nobel Laureates from across the country are warning Congressional leaders and President Obama about the danger the fiscal cliff poses to science, research and innovation. Of particular concern, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will face an 8.2% across-the-board cut starting January 1, 2013, if Congress and the Administration refuse to agree on solutions to the fiscal cliff.

Starting December 3, the Coalition for the Life Sciences has sent a letter a day from a Nobel Laureate in either Chemistry or Physiology and Medicine (click here to view pdf of the letter with signatures, see text of letter below). Twenty-one Nobel Laureates are engaged in this campaign. In these letters, each Laureate emphasizes the importance of federally-funded research and the dire consequences of funding cuts.

Coalition Board member H. Robert Horvitz, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, shared the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. He said, “This potentially very deep cut to the NIH as well as to all other federally-funded science would negatively impact job creation and seriously jeopardize the long-standing leadership position of the U.S. in research and innovation.”

Paul Berg, from Stanford University and the co-recipient of the 1980 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, agreed. “Past support of the NIH by the United States Congress has enabled the American scientific enterprise to rise to world leadership in the physical and life sciences. It is also why Americans have dominated as recipients of the Nobel and other illustrious Prizes.”

All the Nobel Laureates are concerned that cuts to the NIH will stifle discoveries that improve health, save lives, and drive our economy. NIH supports scientists and their critical work in every state across the nation, which means that every state would feel the negative effects of going over the fiscal cliff. Laboratories would shut down, scientists would be laid off, and local businesses that support research would close. Progress on developing promising new cures would slow, if not stop outright.

Coalition Director Lynn Marquis said the campaign arose from a shared anxiety among Coalition members about the future of the nation’s leadership in scientific output and innovation. “We felt strongly that voices from the scientific community needed to be heard and the Nation’s Laureates provide a unique voice that adds gravitas to the debate in Washington.”

 

December 18, 2012

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

As winners of the Nobel Prize, we strongly believe that America’s economy and security depend on our ability to continue the bipartisan support for research, discovery and invention that has long been fueled by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

We can all attest to the importance of ongoing support for federally funded biomedical research. It is the extraordinary bipartisan support of the NIH that has allowed us to explore some of the most complex and important biological questions of our times.

Our nation’s unquestioned international leadership in scientific research has made us the world-leader in biomedical innovation and discovery. We are gravely concerned about the impact of the pending sequestration mandated by the Budget Control Act (BCA) on research supported by the NIH, funding from which has had a profound effect on the health and economic well-being of Americans. NIH has experienced flat funding or nominal increases, well below the escalating costs of conducting medical research and even below the biomedical inflation rate, for the past 10 years. This decrease in real funding has had a major negative impact on the ways researchers perform their scientific research and pursue their careers, laboratories operate, and universities hire. Even researchers with years of experience are hesitant about proposing the kind of innovative high-risk high-return research that could lead to revolutionary breakthroughs. Some have been forced to close their labs, and many of the brightest and most promising young investigators are pursuing other career options entirely. Sequestration will stop breakthrough research in its tracks, and we will be unable to right the course for many years to come. The proposed 8.2% cut will negatively affect job creation and seriously jeopardize America’s leadership position in research and innovation. A March report from United for Medical Research estimates a 7.8% reduction in the NIH budget “would result in 33,000 fewer jobs across the U.S. and a $4.5 billion decrease in economic activity.” With our economy so fragile, now is not the time to make such a drastic cut in the NIH budget.

Rather, America needs more investment in medical research, not less. The engine of economic growth is fueled by discovery and new ideas. Efficient drug discovery and development are impossible without understanding the causes of disease. Yet, the funding crisis is endangering the development of cures and treatments for a wide range of medical conditions and emerging health threats. It is NIH-funded researchers — those on the front lines of the war against cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease – whose critical breakthroughs can dramatically alter health outcomes. The drastic cuts from sequestration would certainly bankrupt this source of solutions to our nation’s pressing problem.

We urge Congress and the Administration to work together to find a solution that avoids sequestration and the devastating impact of across-the-board cuts. Please do not turn away from your commitment to the scientific research our country so vitally needs.

Sincerely yours,

Sidney Altman, Ph.D.
1989 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Richard Axel, M.D.
2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

David Baltimore, Ph.D.
1975 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Paul Berg, Ph.D.
1980 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

J. Michael Bishop, M.D.
1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Gunter Blobel, Ph.D.
1999 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Mario Capecchi, Ph.D.
2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Thomas R. Cech, Ph.D.
1989 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Martin Chalfie, Ph.D.
2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Carol Greider, Ph.D
2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

H. Robert Horvitz, Ph.D.
2002 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine

Eric R. Kandel, M.D.
2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Roger Kornberg, Ph.D.
2006 Nobel Prize in Chemistry,

Robert J. Lefkowitz, M.D.
2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Craig Mello, Ph.D.
2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Sir Richard Roberts, Ph.D., F.R.S.
1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D.
1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Thomas A. Steitz, Ph.D.
2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Eric Wieschaus, Ph.D.
1995 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Torsten Wiesel, M.D., F.R.S.
1981 Nobel P Physiology or Medicine

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