A research scientist at The University of Toledo is meeting with congressional leaders to advocate for an increase in biomedical research funding.
Dr. Sumit Bhattacharya, a postdoctoral fellow trainee, will be in Washington, D.C., Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 7-8, representing the state of Ohio in the NAEVR (National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research) Emerging Vision Scientists Program. He is one of 22 participants.“A lot of biomedical researchers haven’t been able to do the kind of comprehensive research that is crucial for the advancement of science,” Bhattacharya said. “I plan to talk to Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown and State Representative Marcy Kaptur regarding the current crunch in research funding.”
His participation is crucial because Congress will be considering spending and authorizing bills that specifically address the issue of funding for early-stage investigators, according to Dr. David Giovannucci, UT professor of neurosciences and principal investigator overseeing Bhattacharya’s training.
“We are so proud that Sumit will be going to D.C. to speak on behalf of biomedical researchers,” Giovannucci said. “This is quite an honor as well as an opportunity to add his voice to a conversation that could help increase our case for more funding.”
The National Institutes of Health previously funded more than 30 percent of the grants applied for by junior faculty, but in recent years the number has decreased to only 10 percent due to reduction in federal funding.
Bhattacharya’s research in Giovannucci’s laboratory involves understanding the disease process and developing therapies to treat dry eye and dry mouth. A human drug trial to treat dry mouth already is planned.
“We are collaborating with physicians here at UT to conduct a human trial to reverse or prevent dry mouth. We want to test a compound that we have characterized,” he said.
Bhattacharya also is applying for federal funding for dry eye research. Dry eye commonly affects more than 10 million people resulting in billions of dollars for health-care costs each year. The majority of sufferers are women older than 40.
He was eligible to apply for the NAEVR Emerging Vision Scientists Program because he previously was funded for dry eye research through the Fight for Sight Foundation.