Thursday, July 6, 2017

Supporting science during the budget process: an op-ed in the St. Louis Post Dispatch

Here's an op-ed that ran this week in the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

Federally funded research helps connect transplant patients with donors
By Al Roth and Stuart Sweet

"To the nearly 5,000 people in our region and millions of Americans around the country suffering from kidney disease and waiting for a donor, federally funded research into obscure-sounding economic theory may turn out to be just what the doctor ordered.

As the president of the United Network for Organ Sharing Board of Directors and a Nobel Prize-winning economic researcher who did that work, we have seen first-hand how scientific research, even in seemingly unrelated fields, has the power to connect those suffering with disease with vital cures. And yet, the budget proposed by the current administration proposes to dramatically scale back on research, rather than double down on investments in potentially life-saving research.
"Thanks to research funded by the Navy and the National Science Foundation, spanning multiple decades, we’ve developed a system in which kidneys can be exchanged among pairs of donors and recipients who aren’t compatible with each other. How? We pair them, or in some cases, chain them together across multiple donor-recipient pairs, so that each patient gets a compatible kidney from another patient’s donor.

"This approach has saved thousands of lives and hundreds of millions of dollars. Recipients enjoy better quality of life, and every transplant saves the government more than a quarter of a million dollars in health care costs that would have gone to prolonged dialysis treatment.

"Over the past six years, the United Network for Organ Sharing has been running a pilot program to help incompatible donors find compatible pairs for kidney paired donation. In its first five years, the pilot program helped 155 patients receive a healthy kidney despite experiencing the heartbreak of finding out that the person willing to give them the incredible gift of a kidney was not a match.

"Policymakers from both sides of the aisle and around the country have long supported robust investment in basic and applied research that makes success stories like these possible. They have seen that across every industry and sector, investments in research have impacted everything from manufacturing to agriculture and national security, and innovations like kidney paired donation that ensure more Americans can live long, healthy lives.

"We particularly applaud Sen. Roy Blunt’s work as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services to increase research funding, especially for the NIH, and with his colleagues throughout the Congress to protect investments in research and development overall. We urge them to reassert that federal funding for science is an important investment in our nation’s future.

Dr. Stuart Sweet is a professor of pediatrics at Washington University, medical director of the pediatric lung transplant program at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and president of the United Network for Organ Sharing Board of Directors.

Alvin E. Roth is a professor of economics at Stanford University, shared the 2012 Nobel Prize in economics, and is the author of “Who Gets What and Why.”

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