Monday, October 13, 2014

Would better NIH funding levels already have led to an Ebola vaccine?

In recent remarks, Dr. Francis Collins of the NIH stated that we would probably already have an Ebola vaccine were it not for NIH budget cuts.   This one outbreak of this one virus demonstrates the broad impact of the recent decline in funding levels for research grants.  A decline in research funding leads to stagnation in research and fewer scientific advances.  The result is not just a slower career trajectory for scientists.  People are dying.  There are experts in this country who surely have the technical ability and scientific knowledge and creativity to develop new vaccines and treatments not only for Ebola, but also for many other potentially deadly illnesses.  The limiting factor here is the lack of resources. 

This Ebola outbreak has me very nervous, and I am typically a rational, logical scientist.  It takes a lot to get me to spend a small fortune stocking up on nonperishables at the grocery store.  (My family now has enough canned tomatoes, pasta, bottled water, and mini muffins to last us for 2 months.)  However, when I think about the recent missteps by healthcare workers, including perhaps the CDC, I begin to lose faith in our system and its processes and procedures. 

Regardless of which end of the political spectrum you identify with, I think we can all agree that the limited budget faced by the NIH and the CDC in recent years has made the American public more vulnerable.  I hope that the economic recovery continues, and that perhaps there will be a way to increase funding to these vitally important organizations. 

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