basic research

Cuts to basic research funding could threaten the health of Kentucky

Written by Jay Blanton, executive director of UK Public Relations & Marketing.

Colorectal cancer incidence rates have declined by 25 percent in Kentucky in less than 10 years. Death rates have dropped by 30 percent.

Why?

Among other reasons, screenings have increased significantly, led by University of Kentucky and UK HealthCare researchers along with changes in state policy.

It’s one example of the impact that basic scientific research combined with outreach into communities can have in Kentucky. Basic scientific research is at the cornerstone of each innovation and, led by UK, it’s making a difference across Kentucky.

“Everything that we do came from a research question that was originally asked by someone either in the U.S. or internationally, so it impacts every part of our day-to-day lives,” said Lisa Cassis, UK’s vice president for research, who is nationally known and funded for her research in metabolic and obesity-associated diseases.

“Screening for colorectal cancer, for example, is a practice that most of us probably assume is routinely applied according to clinical guidelines. However, research makes a difference by asking the question: Is the screening routinely applied? And if not, then why, and how can we increase screening for this condition?” Cassis said.

Researchers at universities across the country have expressed concern over a recent proposal for next year to cut funding for biomedical research by nearly 20 percent.

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, recognizes the value of research and recently supported an increase in the budget of the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion for the remainder of this fiscal year.

McConnell and Kentucky Congressmen Andy Barr and Hal Rogers also were vocal supporters last year of the 21st Century Cures Act, which authorized federal funding increases for research on Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and opioid abuse  all issues of concern for Kentuckians. And McConnell and Barr reaffirmed their support for UK’s research efforts recently during a news conference to announce $11.2 million in federal funding to launch a new Center for Cancer and Metabolism at UK.

Nevertheless, the threat of cuts looms large and would, if enacted, hamper UK’s ability to continue to make progress in addressing the state’s health disparities, as well as threaten thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars annually in economic impact for Kentucky.

Specifically, Cassis and UK President Eli Capilouto recently cited several economic and health statistics regarding the impact in Kentucky of federal funding for basic scientific research:

  • With the proposed reduction of National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding for next year, an estimated 219 jobs at UK alone would be cut, with an effective loss of 339 jobs across the Commonwealth.
  • UK’s research enterprise has an annual economic impact of more than $580 million and more than 8,000 jobs.
  • Increasing research activity by just 15 percent means an additional nearly $90 million in economic impact and nearly 220 jobs.
  • Institutions in Kentucky earn $163.6 million ($92.4 million earned by UK) of NIH’s $26.4 billion in funding. At an estimated 13 jobs per $1 million in NIH awards, this support generates 2,886 intra/interstate jobs and has an estimated $431.6 million economic impact in Fiscal Year 2016.
  • The proposed cuts would significantly hamper UK’s ability to conduct research – and provide advanced medical healthcare – related to challenges where Kentucky is among the nation’s leaders in incidence rates for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and death from opioid abuse. The CDC estimates hundreds of lives are lost in Kentucky’s Fifth Congressional District every year due to these largely preventable illnesses.
  • The National Institute of Food and Agriculture provides funding to 112 land-grant institutions in the U.S. to support: agriculture, food safety, agribusiness, bioenergy, 4-H, youth development and family consumer sciences.
  • One in six patents in agriculture science nationally grew from land-grant university research.
  • Six of the 10 major vaccines currently used to protect against equine infectious diseases were developed by faculty in UK’s Department of Veterinary Sciences.

Capilouto said UK’s goal with basic scientific research is to translate it as quickly as possible into treatments and solutions for communities across the Commonwealth.

“What we want to do is get the very best of our research quickly to the bedside,” Capilouto said. “We want to be able to take what we’ve learned and translate it quickly to a community to make a difference. We systematically and successfully do that at the University of Kentucky because of our capacity, our depth.”

“We can’t cut back on the pace of progress now,” Capilouto said. “Doing so threatens Kentucky’s future.”

Watch the video below to learn more about the impact basic research has on the health and wellness of Kentucky.


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