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No jobs have been lost, and no research projects been shelved, but there has been belt-tightening.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Less than three years after its inception, the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute is feeling cuts to its federal funding.
About $640,000 in grant money to the Roanoke-based institute already has been lost to sequestration, the automatic, across-the-board cuts in federal spending that resulted from an effort by Congress to reduce the budget deficit.
Another $1 million could be slashed by the end of the year, said Michael Friedlander, executive director of the institute.
No jobs have been lost, nor have any research projects been shelved.
Just the same, Friedlander said, the cuts are having a direct impact on biomedical research aimed at helping people suffering from depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, brain injuries and other ailments.
“The people who are out there walking around with these things are just that much farther away” from advances that might come through work being done at the institute, he said.
The institute gets the bulk of its research funding from federal grants — in excess of $35 million since it opened in September 2010.
While the cuts so far have not been devastating, they come at a time when the institute is still gaining momentum as a startup venture.
“We’re really just getting going, so it is a sensitive period,” Friedlander said.
The institute has 21 research teams, each led by a principal investigator who also teaches at Virginia Tech, and about 140 total employees.
Working out of a gleaming new building that is part of the Riverside Center medical complex, the teams are addressing health and societal problems that include cancer, cerebral palsy, child neglect, addiction, mental retardation, Parkinson’s disease, obesity and diabetes.
The teams consist of postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, technicians, Tech undergraduates and students from the adjacent Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.
If the sequester remains in place, the institute could see losses of $5 million to $10 million over the next five years, Friedlander said.
Since the cuts took effect March 1, individual research teams have been left to consider reductions in working hours, less spending on supplies and equipment and other forms of belt-tightening.
The impact on the local economy — while more difficult to quantify than the number of federal dollars lost — also could be considerable, Friedlander said.
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