The letters from two individuals battling cancer correctly assert that stem cells hold promise for treating their conditions as well as other devastating diseases. However, beyond the debate over stem cells a greater roadblock exists to defeating these diseases.
Funding for the National Institutes of Health has been under siege. The budget proposed by President Bush would hold NIH funding at current levels, an effective cut since the biomedical research inflation rate is projected to be 3.6 percent for 2009.
Given similar budget scenarios over the past five years, the situation has become critical.
I serve on one of about 150 panels that judge NIH grant proposals. It is an exercise in frustration since many exciting and worthwhile projects are not being funded.
The morale among the medical research community is low, and these sentiments are filtering down to undergraduates pondering careers in science.
I think that we, as a nation, have become complacent about medical and technological advances, expecting them to continue at the breakneck pace of recent years. Right now there is a scientist who has a great idea to attack a disease that might strike you or someone you love, but who cannot do the research for lack of funding.
Joseph D. Fontes
Associate professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
University of Kansas Medical Center
Kansas City, Kan.