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Proposed Cuts in Research

April 01, 1985

The front page of the March 20 edition of The Times provided a sad commentary on the inhumane (some might say subhuman) priorities of the Reagan Administration. On the left side of Page 1 was an article, "Cuts Wound Biomedical Researchers."

This article described the plight of a group of scientists at New York University Medical Center who have been conducting research into brain-cell regeneration. The National Institute of Health saw in this research the promise of eventual cures for Alzheimer's disease, cerebral palsy, various birth defects, strokes and spinal cord injuries.

The research group had requested and been granted $400,000 a year for five years by the National Institute of Health. In mid-January, however, the NYU group found that funding for the project had been cut from the Administration's budget.

One might ask why such a worthwhile project should be cut. One need not look far. On the right side of the same page was the headline, "Senate Votes to Free MX Funding." The article described President Reagan's intense lobbying effort to receive $1.5 billion for 21 MX missiles (or "Peacekeeper" as the Mr. Orwell of the President's speech-writing staff calls them). Between the two articles was a picture of Reagan doing what he does best--mugging a big grin for the cameras. The amount being spent on these 21 first-strike weapons could fund 750 projects like the one at NYU.



I read with great interest the article on medical research cuts by Barry Siegel. As a young biomedical researcher, the financial cutbacks of the present Administration are a source of alarm to me and my colleagues. The Times is to be commended for its contribution in calling attention to this critical situation and making it visible to the lay community. However, several additional points deserve attention.

First, the 1985 reduction in the number of new and competing grants sets a dangerous precedent for future years. It is unrealistic to believe that the Administration will completely resolve its economic problems in this fiscal year. If 493 fewer grants are being funded this year compared to last, what level of cuts will we face in 1986, 1987 or 1988?

Secondly, The Times readers should be aware that they need not to look only to New York to see the tremendous impact of the cutbacks on research. Los Angeles is a major medical center in this country, with critical research on-going at USC, UCLA, the VA hospitals and the city's other hospitals and medical centers. The impact is going to be severe right here in our own backyard.

My final comment concerns the advice offered to individuals just beginning their careers or to young investigators and research clinicians faced with difficulties in obtaining support for their work. The answer to these problems must not be an exodus to the often much more financially rewarding and attractive arenas of industry or private medical practice. If this happens, it will constitute a "brain drain" of alarming proportions.

Rather, the answer might lie in the ability of scientists and researchers to become more vocal and politically active in order to protect our own interests. For many of us, this will be a new activity because we are usually most comfortable when communicating research findings to our associates. However, the need to speak out is becoming increasingly essential, not only for the future life of the biomedical research community but also for the population at large. Today, more than ever, current breakthroughs impact greatly on federal health care programs and on the future health and well-being of us all.


Los Angeles

Gruber is an assistant professor of research medicine at USC.

No bag of jellybeans sent to a child is going to remedy the fact that funds for research are being cut rather than added to. No handshake or tears are going to give mentally ill persons living on the streets the boost they need.

What is obviously needed is a huge increase for scientific research into the causes and cure of mental illness, autism, and allied illnesses. While we fight the wars from inner and outer space, our children and brothers are stricken from within our own system.

My autistic son is doing the best he can with what he has. He lives in a residence with five other young people. He goes to work daily in a workshop that produces valuable products. This is not to say that he knows the world in which he lives.

The son of a friend, brain damaged, goes to work daily and produces a service. He is miserable because he knows he isn't "normal." He doesn't want to go out socially with "them."

The daughter of another friend is schizophrenic. When lucid she is a lovely, functioning human being. When off in another world, she is a source of painful, agonizing awareness to all who know her.

Cut funds for medical research? This is a madness. Must we wait for a President with a mentally ill son? Must we wait for a miracle cure? Time is running away with us. We need to think in terms of here, now.


Rolling Hills Estates

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