Only a decade ago all federal research funding had been directed almost solely to the nation’s research universities and centers chiefly clustered along our major coasts or waterways.
Then, in a not-too-long ago exercise of wisdom and bipartisanship, both our then Congress and administration agreed this funding should be shared with hitherto often overlooked inland colleges, state universities and small research centers, many in our Mountain or Desert West.
These changes recognized that substantial latent scientific talent existed inland and that it should be both encouraged and supported to our nation’s benefit.
Our state’s political and educational leadership both then and now supported these changes despite accompanying strong federal oversight of this funding’s use. Until then too many of our state’s more questioning young minds, seeing their ambitions frustrated at home, were forced to leave the state for the larger, more established, more fiscally supported (and more heavily endowed) research centers noted above.
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However, through the past decade’s political wisdom and will, federally supported strong biomedical research programs have been established at the University of Idaho, Boise State University and at the Idaho Veterans Research and Education Foundation (IVREF). These programs now not only allow our state to nourish and keep its native intellectual talent but also even to reverse our state’s “brain drain”: our new research centers have begun attracting scientists (and their families) from other states. Such changes result not only in strengthening our growing biomedical research but also by these scientists teaching and mentoring our student undergraduates and younger researchers. Thus has grown the IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) at U of I, and more lately, the Centers of Biomedical Research and Education (COBRE) at BSU (matrix biology) and at the IVREF for infectious disease on the edge of our VA grounds.
Our state’s continuing innovations and discoveries in both animal husbandry and agricultural sciences now can be extended into nourishing and growing our best minds into the growing domains of not unrelated biomedical sciences. What possible relationship exists between wasting disease in deer and human rapid degenerative brain disease? What conditions relate to preventing transmission of deadly plague from ground squirrels to humans or of similarly deadly hantavirus to us? Can further research interrupt or stop the intermittent Streptococcal infectious endemics among our Mountain West citizens? What further interventions can our Department of Fish and Game do to prevent whirling disease and its transmission among our fish hatcheries or even into the wild? After addressing these and many other closely related concerns perhaps we can hope our congressmen and senators will preserve our new federal science programs and halt the recently proposed and related cuts in NIH funding.
Dr. Frederick W. Bauer is retired as Boise VA chief pathologist with prior both private practice and multiple academic appointments in Boston, Maryland and California.