You may have see or read an interview that NIH Director Francis Collin’s did with the Huffington Post last week. CauseScience posted a summary of his statements in a post here. The takeaway was Collins’ statement about a potential ebola vaccine, “… if (NIH) had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this…” Over the weekend, the Director of NIH’s NIAID, Tony Fauci, was on Meet the Press and mentioned that he would not have said what Collins did. Reported by the Washington Post.
I don’t agree with that, I have to tell you quite honestly. I think you can’t say we would or would not have this or that. Everything has slowed down, but I would not make that statement.
The Washington Post reporter, Dana Milbank, later clarified with Fauci what his statements meant.
I spoke Sunday night with Fauci, a longtime advocate for higher levels of medical research funding, to see why he had opened this public dispute with Collins.
He said he agrees that “budget cuts have a lot to do with the slowing down of research” on Ebola and most everything else, but it’s possible that even with full funding, NIH might have encountered difficulty with the vaccine and couldn’t persuade a corporate partner to make it.
Apparently this slight disagreement about wording and claims of ‘potential’ research is big news in media and politics. The article claims, “Foes of medical research spending by the National Institutes of Health got a boost Sunday from an unlikely source: Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.” This is completely ridiculous. Anyone in science is familiar with this type of squabbling between scientists. Scientists, by nature, argue about everything in and outside of science. Wording, data, interpretation, writing, methods, restaurants, coffee… are all up for argument and debate. These disputes are a HUGE part of science. Debate and argument bring out ideas, require each party to support their assertions with evidence, things done in science. This tiny disagreement between two of NIH’s top scientists is nothing to even talk about, much less be used to justify future funding of biomedical science. And just like any good debate in science… no feelings seem to be hurt.
Collins, in a statement late Sunday, emphasized the common ground between the two: “We both agree that the loss of NIH purchasing power over the last ten years, especially with sequestration, has slowed down biomedical research in virtually all areas. We agree that NIH-funded Ebola research would be further along if that had not happened.