Sequestration Ushers In A Dark Age For Science In America

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from The Huffington Post,

Inside these incubators at the University of Virginia Dr. Anindya Dutta stores cell cultures that he believes hold the key to a massive advancement in health care. He has identified the specific strands of microRNA, the molecule that plays a large role in gene expression, that are responsible for promoting the formation and fusion of muscular tissue.

The implications for such a discovery are tantalizing. People who suffer from diseases like muscular dystrophy would have easier treatments, and the elderly would fall less often and recover faster when they did. And so, as Dutta has me look into the microscope next to those carbon dioxide tanks, there is a notable hint of excitement in his voice.

You wouldn’t know from his giddy, optimistic tone that Dutta is currently navigating the biggest obstacle of his career. Five years after he received a $1.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to undertake this microRNA project, he’s nearly out of cash. His proposal was placed in the 2nd percentile of all grants reviewed by NIH in 2007, meaning that it was deemed more promising than 98 percent of the proposed projects.

When he asked for the same amount of money in 2012, his proposal was scored in the 18th percentile. In years past that score may have been good enough, but in the age of sequestration, NIH is supporting a much smaller pool of applicants. Late last month he was told that there would be no funding. UVA has stepped in to help, but Dutta estimates that 40 of his colleagues are in the same boat.

“I am living off of fumes,” he says.

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