December 6, 2005
Representing the Society of Nuclear Medicine (SNM), George Sgouros, PhD, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, spoke to the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee (BERAC) at the December 5 public meeting regarding the budget cuts to basic nuclear medicine research within the Medical Applications and Measurement Science Program. Until the fiscal year (FY) 2006 budget cuts, Dr. Sgouros’s laboratory led a DOE-funded project investigating the area of patient-specific dosimetry and the radiobiological modeling of targeted radionuclide therapy.
“The McMahon bill which established the Atomic Energy Commission, precursor to the Department of Energy, stated that the Commission is authorized and directed to make grants-in-aid for the conduct of research and development activities relating to utilization of fissionable and radioactive materials for medical or health purposes,” said Dr. Sgouros.” “The present-day version of this mandate was included in the submitted budget but, unfortunately, it was followed by the words ‘terminated in FY ’06.’”
Dr. Sgouros went on to say that, “The best way to predict the future is to have a hand in shaping it. As the scientific advisory committee, charged with advising the DOE BER program regarding the scientific direction that it should take, you have the opportunity to ensure that the support for molecular imaging and nuclear medicine research, so fruitful in the past and so vital to the future of the nations healthcare remains a supported and championed mandate of the DOE BER program.”
DOE BER staff and BERAC—an independent DOE advisory committee consisting of leading investigators in the biological and environmental sciences—expressed regrets for the unfortunate disruption caused to nuclear medicine research by the fiscal year 2006 budget. In fact, BERAC members and nuclear medicine community leaders, Joanna S. Fowler, PhD, and Steven M. Larson, MD, recommended a formal restatement of BERAC’s history of support for nuclear medicine research, as given by the April 2004 BERAC Report on Radiopharmaceuticals (.Pdf file). Drs. Larson and Fowler warned other BERAC members that this sort of program cut could happen to any of the DOE-supported sciences, and nothing is sacred in this tight federal budget climate.
During the BERAC meeting, DOE BER staff discussed an upcoming National Academy of Sciences report on the future of basic nuclear medicine research and where it ultimately belongs (NIH, DOE, etc.). The NAS report on nuclear medicine should be made available to the public by late 2006. Although the NAS report will not be published in time to prevent disruption to current projects under the Medical Applications and Measurement Science Program, the SNM recognizes the DOE Office of Science BER staff for their much-appreciated efforts to ensure a long-term future for basic nuclear medicine research.