Sequ­estration to impact UT Health Science Center

Cuts could affect grou­ndbreaking research projects


SAN ANTONIO - With millions of dollars in funding at stake, researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center are bracing for the impact of sequestration.

Dr. Benjamin Eaton, assistant professor in the Department of Physiology, said, "A lot of us are very concerned about it. Absolutely."

Eaton is involved in a groundbreaking research project which uses fruit flies to study neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's and ALS.

"Our work, we hope, is to identify new targets for new therapies and new drugs to treat those devastating diseases," said Eaton.

Now the study could face setbacks due to sequestration, which will eliminate 5 percent of funds allocated to universities for research. 

As it is, funding is very competitive. Only about 10 percent of projects submitted for grant funding with the National Institutes of Health Funding are accepted.

Cuts in funding would make it even more difficult.

"We're sort of at a crisis level right now. There are lots of individuals like myself who are struggling to keep their labs going despite putting out very exciting research," said Eaton

Until all the details are worked out at a federal level, it's impossible to estimate exactly how much money could be cut, but Dr. David Weiss, vice president for research at UTHSC, estimated it could be as much as $5.2 million.

"It's going to be hard to assess the impact of this for some time. It's definitely going to dampen things, but we don't know for sure what the depth of that impact will be," said Weiss.

Weiss said he doesn't anticipate layoffs but said a hiring freeze is a possibility, not to mention the impact on medical research.

"I wouldn't say it's going to kill research here but it's just going to make it that much more difficult," said Weiss.

Exactly where cuts will take place should be clearer in the coming weeks, as well as the impact it could have on the future of medical advancements.

"This is a critical time for biomedical research in the U.S. and it's really time for people to think about what they want research to be like when we go forward," said Eaton.

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