WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2016

Budget cuts could hinder research at Massachusetts AIDS lab

The Ragon Institute, a leading AIDS research center, unveiled a new $30 million laboratory building in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Monday under the cloud of possible budget cuts driven by the sequestration of the federal budget.

The new facility aims to move forward with efforts to develop an HIV vaccine and to study tuberculosis. Software magnate Phillip Ragon provided the money for the new laboratory four years after providing $100 million for the institute's original offices, the Boston Globe reports.

AIDS and other biomedical scientists are bracing for potential budget cuts in their federal research grants as part of the federal budget sequestration. The National Institutes of Health recently sent notices to researchers in Boston and around the country telling them that their continuing grants could be reduced by five to 10 percent in the fiscal year starting in September if the budgetary reduction becomes permanent.

The Ragon Institute's basic research strategy focuses on high-risk, high-reward studies, a strategy that was largely abandoned by the NIH.

"None of my new grants was funded by NIH," Sarah Fortune, a Ragon tuberculosis researcher, said, according to the Boston Globe. "I think they're trying to become less risk-averse, but when the budgets get so tight, it's hard to be anything except superconservative in that environment."

Even though private donors back research at Ragon, federal funding is still important for the facility. Bruce Walker, the director of the institute, said federal cuts would have a major impact on Ragon, the Boston Globe reports.

"(If the cuts go through) it will probably mean that ­either we'll have to cut supplies or we'll have to cut personnel," Walker said, according to the Boston Globe. "And those will be hard decisions to make."

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