US Senator Dick Durbin is calling for an increase in federal spending on medical research.
Illinois' senior senator made his case Monday in Springfield, before a group of doctors and scientists at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. Durbin says federal investment in basic medical research has lagged far behind inflation. He says a decade ago, 30 percent of grant proposals were funded, while today that number is down to just 15 percent. Durbin singled out advances being made by SIU researchers on cancer, Alzheimer's and hearing loss. But he says good work isn't enough: "What could keep us from making discoveries that we desperately need is not a lack of knowledge, but a lack of federal funding."
Durbin proposes to increase federal spending on medical research by five percent a year plus inflation. He'd pay for that in part by increasing the federal tobacco tax by 95 cents - on cigarettes and other products. He says that could also have the benefit of getting more people to quit smoking, and that the higher cost would keep teens from ever starting.