Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Desperately Seeking Cures...

... or, "How the road from promising scientific breakthrough to real-world remedy has become all but a dead end."

Next time you hear a scientist who uses animals in basic research make claims about how important their work is, remember this observation from the May 15, 2010 issue of Newsweek:
From 1998 to 2003, the budget of the NIH—which supports such research at universities and medical centers as well as within its own labs in Bethesda, Md.—doubled, to $27 billion, and is now $31 billion. There is very little downside, for a president or Congress, in appeasing patient-advocacy groups as well as voters by supporting biomedical research. But judging by the only criterion that matters to patients and taxpayers—not how many interesting discoveries about cells or genes or synapses have been made, but how many treatments for diseases the money has bought—the return on investment to the American taxpayer has been approximately as satisfying as the AIG bailout. “Basic research is healthy in America,” says John Adler, a Stanford University professor who invented the CyberKnife, a robotic device that treats cancer with precise, high doses of radiation. “But patients aren’t benefiting. Our understanding of diseases is greater than ever. But academics think, ‘We had three papers in Science or Nature, so that must have been [NIH] money well spent.’?” [my emphasis] Mary Carmichael and Sharon Begley, Newsweek. May 15, 2010
Read the entire article here.

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