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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Nobelist takes funding plea to Washington

mello150.bmpNobel laureate Craig C. Mello of University of Massachusetts Medical School (left) is taking his plea for more science funding to Capitol Hill, along with four other Americans who swept the 2006 science Nobel prizes.

Mello, who won the 2006 prize in medicine or physiology with Stanfordís Andrew Z. Fire for their discovery of gene silencing known as RNA interference, was invited to speak this afternoon at a hearing of the Senate subcommittee on science, technology and innovation. Roger D. Kornberg (chemistry) and John C. Mather and George F. Smoot (joint winners in physics) were also on the agenda.

"We need a call to arms, a call to fund science broadly in this country," a transcript of Melloís prepared testimony said. "This isnít science for the sake of science, but science for the sake of medical advances and lives to be saved."

Mello has deplored the decline in federal funding for research since the October day his prize was announced, insisting that the type of work he and Fire did 10 years ago would not win grants in todayís climate. They werenít looking for RNAi when they found it, he said, but in eight years it went from being a puzzle to being the subject of a 1998 Nature paper to being applied as a tool for treating disease.

"This could happen only because we are in an era unprecedented for scientific discovery," he said, citing the sequencing of the human genome made possible by government investment that is now not keeping pace with inflation. "What other discoveries, what work like RNAi ... will be missed?"

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 06:05 PM
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