Monday, May 6, 2013

Did you know the Washington State Legislature has been cutting medical research funding?

It’s not well very known, but since 2005, the state of Washington has been funding innovative scientists in our own backyard who are dedicated to finding cures for diseases like MS through the Life Sciences Discovery Fund (LSDF). The funding for this research has come from the multi-billion dollar tobacco settlement that then-Attorney General Christine Gregoire negotiated to compensate for increased health care costs from tobacco use. Unfortunately, this funding has been cut more and more as the budget crisis in Olympia worsens.

I was reminded of this state program by a recent article in the Puget Sound Business Journal that highlights the recent round of grants. While there aren’t any that relate to MS this year, one of the largest grants ever by the LSDF went to Benaroya Research Institute in 2007 to focus on improved diagnosis and treatment of autoimmune diseases. That grant has since been used to leverage millions more in funding from other institutions like the NIH.

I’ve been looking for an excuse to highlight the LSDF on this blog, because it’s a great example of what more the Legislature could do if it had more funding. The LSDF has been continually raided by legislative budget writers to pay for other state programs like education and health care. It was initially expected to fund $350 million in research over 10 years but only will be able to fund $7 million in research this year. That's too bad because we have so many smart scientists who are willing to work harder and smarter to find cures to diseases like MS, but don't have the funding to do it.

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