Letter: Sequester hurting vital medical research

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The opinion piece "Bad medicine" details the damage being inflicted upon the National Institutes of Heath by budget sequestration ("The Washington Post: Bad medicine," Opinion, Dec. 3).

The NIH is the most significant source of biomedical research funds for investigators in this state. The "success rate" of getting a grant funded is now at 15 percent, but that is only half the story. Each institute develops its own cut-off percentiles and the Allergy and Infectious Disease Institute is currently trying to fund with a pay line of 8 percent, which means that is my chance of getting an immunology-based grant funded.

NIH funding is the driver behind the research at the University of Utah School of Medicine. I am watching colleagues lose their funding and being forced to mothball amazingly creative projects that could bring dramatic results. Dr. Erik Jorgensen's discovery detailed in the Tribune required a setup phase of years before he got his exciting data ("Nerve cells are 'ultrafast' recyclers, Utah study finds," Tribune, Dec. 7).

Basic research takes time, money, talented people and patience. The financial gutting of the NIH will have repercussions in our state and country for many years to come. And, of course, nature abhors a vacuum; the Chinese government is pouring money into basic research programs while our government dithers.

John H Weis

Professor of Pathology

George J. Weber Presidential Chair in Immunology

University of Utah School of Medicine

Salt Lake City