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February 22, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Sequestration would hammer Seattle medical research

Sequestration would hit Seattle particularly hard in medical research, say the heads of the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Dr. Larry Corey, president of the Hutchinson Center, said the nonprofit center received $305 million in National Institutes for Health funds in fiscal 2013, amounting to 71 percent of its budget. It has applications in for $900 million in NIH grants, and it tends to win about 25 percent of such applications. A 5.1 percent cut in the NIH budget under sequestration would cause important programs to stop.

Corey, who is also the principal investigator in the Hutch-based network to test vaccines for HIV, says unthinking cuts in federal medical grants could wipe out teams that have been working together for years on cancer.

“Even if the cut is for six or eight months, those teams get dissolved,” he said. “The research goes away. Sequestration could set us back years in genomics and personalized medicine.”

UW President Michael Young told the Seattle Times editorial board that sequestration would hit the university hard through cuts at the NIH and other federal agencies. Young said sequestration could cost UW research “upwards of $85 million.” Many professors are paid out of grant money, and their jobs would go away.

Sequestration does address a problem that is urgent to address, as The Seattle Times points out in its editorial. I don’t hold to the “no cuts” point of view. I’d start federal cuts around here with projects like Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park, federal grants for light rail, for beautification, etc. Not cancer research. Good grief.

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