Sequestration would cost UI more than $20 million - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Sequestration would cost UI more than $20 million in research funds in FY13

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

With Congress home on a week-long break, time is running out to avoid sequestration.

Across-the-board automatic spending cuts in the amount of $1.2 trillion would go into effect March 1 if Congress and the President fail to agree on addressing the U.S. national debt.

On Monday, U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) spent his time away from Capitol Hill hearing from University of Iowa researchers on the impact such cuts would have on their work.

Dr. John Fingert oversees a group of researchers working to prevent blindness, specifically looking at glaucoma -- a disease affecting one out of 10 people over 80 years old.

"We're at a crucial point where research could really find therapies that makes a big difference for these common diseases," Fingert said. 

Fingert's lab depends largely on funding from the National Eye Institute to conduct this research -- dollars that are in serious jeopardy with sequestration looming just weeks away.

"The actual funds that we may lose from the sequester and the uncertainty of what funds may look like further down the road, is really damaging not just for our research but for keeping our employees employed," Fingert said. 

Labs across the country are fearing the worst.

The University of Iowa stands to lose more than $20 million in research funding next year if Congress fails to act.

"If we lose funding, we lose momentum and sometimes you can't get that back," Fingert said. 

Loebsack believes the impending cuts are becoming more and more unavoidable.

"The closer we get to March 1, the more likely it looks that sequestration is going to happen," Loebsack said. 

UI professors point to research as the foundation for future healthcare advances.

It's why Fingert and so many others are urging Congress and the President to strike a deal before the deadline.

"We've been building our programs for years and years, and some of what we have been building is personnel (who) have been trained to be skilled researchers," Fingert said. "And if we lose them, then we lose years of training."

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