What goes on the chopping block: Research into cancer or Alzheimer’s? A Zika vaccine or a treatment for superbugs?
Health groups say President Donald Trump’s proposal to slash funds for the nation’s engine of biomedical research would be devastating for patients with all kinds of diseases — and for jobs.
“It is possible that the next cure for some cancer is sitting there waiting to be discovered, and it won’t get to the table,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.
In his budget blueprint Thursday, Trump called for a cut of $5.8 billion from the National Institutes of Health. That’s a staggering 18 percent drop for the $32 billion agency that funds much of the nation’s research into what causes different diseases and what it will take to treat them.
It comes despite Trump recently telling Congress about the need to find “cures to the illnesses that have always plagued us.”
“All of us woke up this morning in a state of shock about this number,” said Dr. Blase Polite, a cancer specialist at the University of Chicago who chairs the American Society for Clinical Oncology’s government relations committee.
Trump’s proposal would roll back NIH’s 2018 budget to about what it was in 2003. The president called for a “major reorganization” of NIH to stress the “highest priority research,” but only specifically targeted for elimination the $69 million Fogarty International Center that focuses on global health and has played a big role in HIV research abroad.
Drops in deaths from cancer and heart disease, breakthroughs in genetics, and new ways to treat and prevent HIV and other infectious diseases all are credited to decades of NIH-funded basic research.