Özlem Demir Özlem Demir A molecular dynamics simulation of the p53 protein shows stictic acid fitted into the protein’s reactivation pocket.

Sequestration casts shadow over research labs

Recent UCI discovery related to cancer treatment is the type of work endangered

In January, UC Irvine biologists, chemists and computer scientists published a study in Nature Communications that could herald a new treatment approach to cancer – one that addresses a wide range of cancers, instead of individual types.

Federal agencies – the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation – funded much of this breakthrough research, which identified an elusive pocket on the surface of a protein that is implicated in nearly 40 percent of all diagnosed cases of cancer. The researchers employed a computational method to capture the various shapes of the mutant p53 protein, discovering a novel binding site that can be targeted by cancer-fighting drugs.

With the imposition of across-the-board federal spending cuts – or sequestration – research and discovery such as that conducted by the UC Irvine team is in jeopardy, according to UC President Mark Yudof. Funding agencies face a 5 to 6 percent cut on top of earlier decreases. The latest available quarterly financial data from UC’s Office of the President shows the effect on research systemwide is a 22 percent drop ($320 million) in federal funds awarded to UC compared with the same period in the previous year:

  • The total dollar amount for federal research awards was down 25 percent year over year. Awards issued by NIH, the Department of Energy, USDA and NASA showed the greatest decline.
  • There were 23 percent fewer research awards.
  • The average research award was much smaller.

“UC strongly encourages Congress and the president to reach an agreement to avoid the devastating impact that sequestration would have on students, scientific research, healthcare and the economy,” said Yudof in a letter to California’s congressional delegation. “UC is an economic engine for California and the nation. Through a strong UC-federal partnership, we educate the workforce, advance scientific breakthroughs through research, provide world-class medical training and healthcare services, and generate economic growth through new jobs, start-up companies and spinoff industries. Sequestration would seriously damage UC’s ability to carry out these critical missions and further fuel the economic recovery of California and the nation.”

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