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Threat to research funding prompts outcry from Bay State university presidents and hospital executives

WASHINGTON - The threat of deep spending cuts to begin in January if Congress does not act has prompted 16 Massachusetts university presidents and hospital executives to fire off letters today to the Bay State delegation, pleading with them to adopt deficit reduction strategies that preserve federal funding for scientific research.

In jeopardy is the state’s multi-billion research enterprise. If automatic across-the-board budget cuts outlined by the 2011 debt deal come to a head on January 2, Massachusetts stands to lose $3.1 billion over five years, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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That includes funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

“The federal dollars we receive have a return far beyond their initial investment, acting as a significant magnet for private sector dollars that spur job creation in Massachusetts and beyond,” according to the letter provided to the Globe.

The state’s biomedical sector, which received $2.5 billion in medical research funds from the NIH in fiscal year 2011, also received more than $1 billion in venture capital money. Between 2007 and 2011, the biotechnology research sector added 3,521 jobs in Massachusetts, the letter said, more than any other state during that time in that sector.

“The ecosystem of innovation is a driving force behind technologies and therapies that are at the heart of the national public health and economic well-being, as well as advancements that are improving global health,” the letter said.

Looming cuts to research on the horizon would have dire consequences for research institutions across the state, say college presidents and hospital leaders.

“The effects of this drastic ‘reset’ of research support may drive a generation of young talent to other fields as they seek to establish reliable career paths,” they wrote. “The scheduled cuts will jeopardize our nation’s status as the world leader in research and innovation, a position of strength established and maintained through bipartisan support of federally funded science over nearly a century.”

The institutions represented in the letter include: Harvard University, Boston University, Northeastern University, MIT, Tufts University, the University of Massachusetts, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Tufts Medical Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Joslin Diabetes Center, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, and McLean Hospital.

Tracy Jan can be reached at tjan@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeTracyJan.
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