United for Medical Research Statement on Impending Federal Government Shutdown

September 27th, 2013

WASHINGTON – “Progress in medical innovation is threatened by the uncertainty created with the possibility of a government-wide shutdown. Lifesaving medical research depends on sustained investment in the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIH, as the world’s premier biomedical research funding agency, has already been subject to a decade of diminishing funding and the indiscriminate cut of sequestration.  The threat of the government shutdown further disrupts the research enterprise, resulting in delays that could mean the difference between a timely breakthrough and a lost opportunity.

“Life science research cannot be easily stopped and restarted like water from a faucet. Medical research requires carefully timed experiments with living organisms or material, from microscopic cells to laboratory animals to DNA; experiments which typically cannot be halted mid-stream and restarted. Consequences of a shutdown range from the inability to start laboratory studies that require consistent attention, thus delaying critical work, to the dashed hope of new patients, unable to be admitted to the Clinical Center, to resources wasted on preparing for a shutdown; resources that could be better spent on discovering treatments to our most pressing diseases and conditions. Moreover, the threat of a shutdown sends a chilling message to the research community and the American people that supporting medical research and maintaining our competitive place in the world is no longer a national priority.

“This uncertainty has ripple effects throughout our economy, jeopardizing the $62 billion in economic activity and more than 432,000 jobs supported by NIH. Businesses and universities do not make decisions in 45 day or even one year increments. Investment decisions are made strategically based on long term outlooks. And Congress’s inability to articulate a clear strategy for either funding biomedical research or even an overall spending plan has stagnated enterprise investment decisions.  For patients, for whom every day of delay means an erosion of hope, the impact of a looming shutdown can feel catastrophic.

“Despite decades of strong, bipartisan support, federal funding of biomedical research is again held hostage in a political battle. It is time to restore a process that allows for prioritization of and sustained funding for medical research.”