Government Funding for Medical Research

(c) 2011, Written by Will Blesch

There simply is not enough government funding for medical research…let alone research that falls outside “normal” parameters.

When President Eisenhower said in his famous farewell speech on January 17th, 1961 that scientists could become captives of government funding, with contracts becoming “virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity,” no one could have predicted how correct his warning was.

Fast forward to 2011.

President Eisenhower’s warning is exemplified by the fact that scientists around the country find it hard to gain government funding for anything outside the prescribed parameters dictated by government policy. This, in turn, stifles scientific curiosity…effectively narrowing it to only those avenues which are “approved”…sometimes by mere bureaucrats who are not scientists themselves.

Even should the government decision maker be a scientist, because of the rigidity in grant guidelines and funding methods, scientific areas of exploration are not only limited, but ideas become entrenched. Thoughts that fall outside those entrenchments are disregarded or even actively attacked as illegitimate.

Groundbreaking discoveries are not a miracle, they are a process. Government policies and regulations regarding funding, many times limit those discovery processes.

This is exemplified by a case reported by Thomas H. Maugh II in the L.A. Times on June 25, 2011.  Dr. Denise Faustman of Massachusetts General Hospital is now preparing for a phase 2 clinical trial of a technique she believes could be a “cure” for Type 1 Diabetes.

First trials suggest that, “injecting patients with Type 1 diabetes with an inexpensive vaccine normally used to prevent tuberculosis can block destruction of insulin-secreting pancreatic cells in humans and allow regeneration of the pancreas.

However, Dr. Faustman “had great difficulty obtaining research funds because her ideas were so contrary to the prevailing wisdom. One person who believed in her, however, was Lee A. Iacocca, the former chief of Chrysler Corp., whose wife died of diabetes. Iacocca wrote her a check for $1 million and by 2006; his Iacocca Family Foundation had raised more than $11 million for her research.”

As noted elsewhere on this blog, it’s amazing that the National Institute of Health’s annual budget is only 29.5 billion dollars. Think about that…an organization that helps fund major medical research only has 29.5 billion dollars per year…PER YEAR!…when the war in Iraq (just ONE war)…costs the American tax payer 1 billion dollars per DAY.

That means that if we were spending the amounts of money we spend on the war inIraqon medical research, the NIH would have 12 times the funding it currently has. Imagine the breakthroughs that could come if government policies regarding funding were widened…and if we spent more on medical research than on war!

Private  funders should not have to provide the bulk of funding when it comes to what some might consider, “alternative” medical research, and no avenue should be left unexplored.

Even the most absurd idea should have the freedom to be examined in the light of scientific study!

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