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U Researchers Buoyed by Health Funding Boost

Bob Nelson

On Friday, President Obama signed into law a bill that would increase the budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by two billion dollars. For health scientists at the University of Utah, the outlook for 2016 just got brighter.

Funding for health sciences research has been stagnant for 12 years now, says Andy Weyrich, Associate Dean of Research at the University of Utah School of Medicine. He says junior researchers have been dropping out of the field and senior researchers have been scaling back their labs, retiring early, or going overseas. In 2013, funding for NIH was cut as part of sequestration, but now, the federal budget for NIH funding will be raised from 30 billion dollars to 32 billion.

“This is just huge because we haven’t seen this in over a decade, and I think it’s going to be wonderful for the University of Utah, for the United States in general, and so we’re really, really excited,” Weyrich says. “When this came out, I mean, you could just see morale increase.” He says research funding has a ripple effect across Utah.

“It’s great for just the community in general, the ability for us to have funds that can actually be targeted towards different types of health and disease,” Weyrich says. “Not only that, for young folks coming in just trying to get their first jobs, there will be a capacity now to actually get them in the unit, and prepared for pre-medical and graduate studies down the road.”

Weyrich says the university is particularly well positioned to take advantage of some new funds for precision medicine, genetics, and neuroscience because of research that’s already underway.

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