OF ALL the hardships imposed by the federal shutdown, none may be more tragic than its impact on a field that had already sustained devastating budget cuts: biomedical research. That is an impact measured in human terms. The National Institutes of Health, for example, is turning away patients seeking to enroll in clinical trials. The impact will ripple outward from them to other patients who might have benefited from what researchers would have learned from those studies.
They are not alone. Even as 35 million new patients stand to be enrolled in health exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act, policy makers have been unwittingly but systematically undermining the quality of the next generation of care that awaits them by gutting biomedical research.