The American Society of Hematology (ASH), the world's largest professional organization dedicated to the causes and treatment of blood disorders, today announced its commitment of $9 million over a three-year period to provide funding, in the form of bridge grants, for its hematologists whose vital research will not be accomplished due to the severe funding reductions for biomedical research. ASH's new grant program was designed to help bridge a gap created by nearly a decade of flat funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) followed by further projected cuts.
NIH's inflation-adjusted funding is close to 20 percent lower today than in FY2003. Accordingly, NIH's ability to sustain current research capacity and encourage promising new areas of science is, and will be, significantly limited. And under some funding scenarios, as many as 2,300 NIH grants could be eliminated beginning next year. This is having a devastating impact on young scientists committed to careers in hematology research and will result in many talented investigators abandoning their research careers. It will also slow momentum for finding new treatments, or even cures, for some of the most deadly diseases.
"Every year we brace for the possibility that the NIH budget will be cut, but this time it is different," said ASH President Armand Keating, MD, of Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. "The threat of reduced biomedical research funding over the long term is very real, and the devastating effects will be felt for the next decade or more."
Acknowledging this crisis, ASH designed a new bridge grant program, which will provide 30 one-year awards annually, in the amount of $100,000 each, to support researchers in basic, clinical, or translational hematology who applied for an NIH R01 grant but were denied funding due to budget cutbacks. There will be two award cycles per year; the first application deadline will be January 4, 2013, and applicants will be notified of acceptance on or around March 31, 2013. The Society is currently seeking support from individual and corporate donors in order to provide additional awards.
"We are extremely proud to have established this program for members who have committed their careers to hematology research, but more needs to be done at the federal level to preserve funding for NIH," said ASH President-Elect Janis Abkowitz, MD, of the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, who co-chaired, with ASH Committee on Scientific Affairs Chair Robert Hromas, MD, of the University of Florida, the task force that developed the award. To that end, ASH is launching a national advocacy and communications campaign in conjunction with its bridge award program to urge its members, patients, and the American public to contact their Senators and Representative about the importance of supporting biomedical research.
Over the past decade, research supported by NIH has yielded significant advances across all fields of medicine. As a direct result of hematology research, chronic myeloid leukemia has become a manageable disease that is easily treated, children are routinely cured of acute lymphocytic leukemia, and new types of blood thinners can effectively treat and prevent strokes. Such research is a significant stimulant of the U.S. economy, through the creation of jobs and the development of new drugs. However, continued progress - both scientific and economic - will be hindered without adequate funding of NIH.
"It is our hope that the announcement of ASH's new award program will help raise awareness of the dire consequences that cuts to federal funding of biomedical research will have for the nation's health and economy, and inspire individuals as well as other medical organizations to take action," said Dr. Keating.