Durbin speaks at Feinberg on federal research funding increase

Madeline Fox, Campus Editor

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) spoke Monday at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine about the importance of medical research in light of increased federal funding to the National Institutes of Health.

The NIH received a $2 billion increase in federal funding from Congress for fiscal year 2016, bringing their total up to $32.08 billion nationally.

“In this year’s federal budget, we had one of the most significant commitments to medical research we have seen in recent times,” Durbin said at the press conference.

Northwestern received $293 million in research funding from the NIH last year — more than a third of Illinois’ $710 million total.

“This funding commitment to the NIH represents an essential step in what I hope will be continued investment into the biomedical sciences … and is essential for making substantial progress in our quest to understand and hopefully prevent Alzheimer’s disease,” said Emily Rogalski, a neuroscientist and associate professor at the NIH-funded Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at NU, in a news release. “Without the support of the NIH, my laboratory would not exist.”

The Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center is one of 30 NIH-funded disease centers in the nation.

At the press conference, Durbin highlighted his efforts to increase funding for scientific and biomedical research. The $2 billion increase to medical funding in the 2016 appropriations bill was based on targeted funding levels set by the American Cures Act, which he introduced in January 2015.

“We’ve seen over the past few years a reverse brain drain where many of our best young researchers and seasoned researchers have, in fact, moved their laboratories to Europe and to Asia,” said Milan Mrksich, associate director of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, at the press conference. “This represents a real turning point in where we’re going and where we can go.”

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