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President Obama’s State of the Union address highlighted the importance of keeping medical and scientific research fully funded by the federal government. “Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the space race,” President Obama said.

While the space race has ended for now, the need for strong investment in scientific research, especially medical research, continues. Federal funding for research spurs innovation, supports well-paying jobs and reduces medical costs. The federal budget sequester now going into effect would slash 11.3 percent of the Nation Institute for Health’s budget. These cuts to medical research would have profound economic consequences and set back important research.

Federal funding for medical research stimulates a lot of economic activity. As Obama stated in his speech, for every dollar spent on the human genome project, $140 is returned to the economy. Investing federal funds in medical research stimulates large amounts of growth. Every public dollar spent on medical science helps stimulate $3.50 in the pharmaceutical industry alone. This is the type of spending that is necessary in an economic recession to encourage continued economic growth.

Not only is federal funding for medical research a good investment in the economy, it is also plays an important role in supporting jobs, especially well-paying jobs. A study by the Association of American Medical colleges found that “federal and state research funding received by medical schools and teaching hospitals directly supports nearly 300,000 full-time, mostly high-skilled, jobs.” That amounts to about one of every 500 jobs.

It is important to note that jobs created through medical research are high-skilled and well paid. CNN Money’s “Best Jobs in America” list for 2012 ranked clinical research associate at number four. The median pay of a clinical research associate is $90,700 per year and the field is expected to grow by 36.4 percent over the next 10 years. Another set of jobs supported by medical research funding are research scientists; they have a median income of $81,800 per year and a projected 10-year job growth of 15.5 percent. These types of jobs are what the economy needs, in growth areas where workers can earn greater disposable income. Drastic cuts to federal spending will lead to job losses and will harm job growth in fields that are vital to continued economic recovery.

Aside from the negative economic impact, the sequester cuts would also cause significant setbacks for medical research. One devastating setback would be the predicted slowdown of research on new cancer treatments. Cuts to medical research will hurt cancer research, which only receives $5 billion dollars a year, and would stall new research on cancer treatment. Advocates have also said that the sequester will negatively affect the wait time for Food and Drug Administration reviews of oncology drugs. These setbacks will hurt millions of Americans.

With 55 percent of Americans saying we’re not making enough progress in medical research, it is unacceptable to even imagine cutting federal funding in this area. Medical research is essential to getting America going again and providing important services to Americans. The damage the sequester cuts to medical research funding could do to jobs and growth in America is just one more example that austerity is not the way forward for the country.

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