Sen. Casey: Congress cannot allow budget fight to affect medical research

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U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said Friday that Congress must act to prevent new sequester cuts to medical research that are looming in January if no agreement can be reached.

Speaking at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Mr. Casey, D-Pa., said sequestration cuts this year amounted to the loss of $73 million in medical research funding and 1,200 jobs in Pennsylvania alone. Pitt estimated it lost $24.1 million in research funding, affecting more than 860 jobs due to sequestration cuts.

"There are a lot of ways we can cut. The cuts that come from sequestration make no sense at all," Mr. Casey said following a tour of research labs at the Shadyside facility. He said he is pushing to "turn off" sequestration cuts for at least two years.

"It is important we focus on finding adequate funding levels for medical research," he said. "Unfortunately, the good work done here, the inspiration derived from that work can be impeded, undermined and badly damaged if we don't make the right decisions."

Pennsylvania institutions received $1.4 billion in National Institutes of Health grants in 2012, with $500 million coming to the Congressional district in which Pitt is located. Not only does the research result in life-saving discoveries but it funds more than 24,000 jobs in the state, he noted.

"One of the reasons unemployment in Allegheny County has remained below 7 percent is because of what's happening in this region because of medical research," he said.

Moreover, he said sequestration cuts have caused the United States to begin to lose its edge in research with some top investigators relocating to Europe.

He said he is optimistic, despite political rancor in Washington, D.C., that agreement on medical research funding levels can be reached because "the benefits know no partisan bounds."

Michael A. Fuoco: or 412-263-1968. First Published October 25, 2013 11:31 PM

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