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Duke Medical Researchers Rally to Promote NIH Funding

research rally

Duke biochemistry chair Richard Brennan, second from left, and Beth Sullivan, far right, associate professor of molecular genetics and microbiology, meet with congressional staffers working for U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield in Washington, D.C. Duke alumnus Brandon Coleman is on the left.

Four faculty from the Duke School of Medicine participated in the 2014 Rally for Medical Research Hill Day last week to urge Congress to make funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) a national priority. More than 300 national organizations and institutions from 32 states, including 13 individuals from Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Wake Forest University, rallied to advocate for a robust, predictable, and sustained investment in medical research.

Duke participants included Raphael Valdivia, vice dean for basic research; Steven Patierno, deputy director, Duke Cancer Institute; Richard Brennan, chair of biochemistry; and Beth Sullivan, associate professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology.

In their meetings with nine members and staff of the North Carolina congressional delegation, the Duke participants stressed the impact of decreased funding in NIH on research as well as the next generation of scientists.

In 1980, the average age at which a principal investigator received his or her first R01 award was 35; since that time, the average age at a first R01 is approaching 45. Too many young scientists are unable to get funding awards for their early work, the Duke faculty conveyed to members of Congress and their staff, and as a result, they are dropping out of the pipeline.