President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts, which would hit federal research funding hard, are “a major step backward for American research and innovation,” the president of the University of Washington said.
Leaders at the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center — two of the largest recipients of federal money for health research in the nation — slammed President Donald Trump’s proposed budget Thursday.
The proposed cuts “represent a major step backward for American scientific research and innovation,” University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce said in a statement.
The proposed cuts “are indefensible and would severely impede our progress” toward finding a cure for cancer, said Gary Gilliland, president and director of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, during a news conference.
More on the president’s budget proposalPresident Donald Trump’s $1.15 trillion spending plan envisions deep cuts to many government programs including those affecting Washington state.
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If enacted by Congress, the proposed cut of nearly 20 percent to the National Institutes of Health budget could lead to the loss of millions of research dollars to the area.
The UW gets nearly a billion dollars in federal money annually to research cancer, Alzheimer’s, opioid abuse and heart disease, just to name a few. It gets more federal research funding than any other public university in the nation, and is second only to the private Johns Hopkins University.
Fred Hutch receives 85 percent of its budget from the National Institutes of Health, or nearly $250 million annually — more NIH grants than any other cancer research center in the country.
The cuts would come at a time when researchers are on the cusp of finding curative therapies for many cancers, said Fred Hutch immunotherapy researcher Stan Riddell. “What this cut potentially does is stops the development of new therapies,” he said, and it would also curtail the training of the next generation of scientists.
Currently, he said, only about 1 out of every 12 research grants submitted are getting funded, a historically low number. If cuts such as those proposed by Trump go through, therapies that are now being investigated in the lab will not be developed into treatments. “That has dramatic consequences,” he said.
He and Gilliland were joined by Beth Caldwell, who was diagnosed with a form of metastatic breast cancer and is being treated with experimental drugs at the Hutch because conventional drugs no longer work on her cancer.
“You take a drug until it stops working, and then you take a new one,” said the mother of two, who was diagnosed when she was 37, three years ago. “And if there are no new ones, you die.”
Both Fred Hutch and the UW said they would work with Washington’s Congressional delegation to fight Trump’s budget proposals.
At the UW, President Cauce said Trump’s “shortsighted proposal attacks the very investments that have made the United States healthy and prosperous.”
In 2016, the UW received $995 million in federal research dollars, the bulk of it — $522 million — from the National Institutes of Health.
About half the UW’s research dollars go to the UW’s School of Medicine for health research.
In 2016, another $115 million came from the National Science Foundation. That year, the school also received $71 million from the Department of Defense. It’s not clear whether NSF or defense research would be affected; Trump has proposed a major increase in military spending.
Washington State University — the state’s other research university — received $140 million in federal research dollars in 2016. A little more than 25 percent of that money, or $35 million, came from the Department of Health and Human Services.
WSU has used federal grants in work to improve hip and knee replacement technology, to research alcohol abuse in people with mental illness, and to study how to better coordinate and manage the food, water and energy needs of the Columbia River basin to make the area more resilient to climate change.