Think it’s hard to get an R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health? Well, you’re not the only one. Today the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine was announced and awarded to James Rothman, Randy Schekman, and Thomas Südhof, all members of ASBMB. The three researchers conducted groundbreaking research on vesicle trafficking in the cell. How these vesicles accurately transport cargo around the cell is essential for important brain function and for proper hormone and enzyme delivery. This describes yet another example of basic research that has led to a keen understanding of the underlying mechanisms of diseases, such as diabetes and immunological and neurological disorders, and the pathways to drug discovery and treatments.
Oftentimes, research on fundamental biological processes is not funded due to the lack of immediate translational applications despite the potential of future medical breakthroughs. In this vein, Rothman said that he did not receive funding from the NIH for his continued work on vesicle trafficking but is hoping that when he reapplies, the Nobel Prize will help him secure the grant. With the flat budget for the NIH and sequestration, the funding climate has become increasingly difficult for all investigators. Given the immense health benefits and economic payoff of high-quality basic research that can lead to drug discovery, strong and sustained increases to federal science funding are essential to sustain the biomedical research enterprise.