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Matteo Da Ros

PhD student, University of Turku

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should we rethink about medical science funding?

Nowadays funds for medical research are very goal oriented: there are funds to find the cure for a specific cancer and so on. The funding agencies also give quite strict guidelines how the money should be spent, limiting the work of the scientist. The scientist cannot pursue his/her inspiration because it is not connected to the fund policy. This is also frustrating for the scientist.
Another aspect of this policy is that scientists are trying all the possible approaches to get to that goal, but only one or very few will be successful. All the others will eventually result in a waste of time and resources.
People are complaining that despite the huge amount of money given to medical research we haven't got to cure cancer and the, for example, the coding of human genome hasn't yet brought any benefit to the population. Nowadays we have many more scientist than two decades ago and we are spending much more money on research, but new drugs are getting to the market at a slower rate than 20 years ago. Maybe the approach we are using needs some rethinking.
In my opinion science is fun and scientists should be let to pursue the topic they like the most in the way they like the most. On the other hand this kind of research might look purposeless. It is a pity that the most striking discoveries in science were the results of this purposeless kind of investigation (side projects pursued during spare time and accidents). In my opinion this approach would give a much more valuable knowledge and will eventually still bring to the results wanted by the funding agencies. And it would not take necessarily longer time.

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    Feb 17 2011: Most of these interesting (and beneficial) side projects, though, came about while working on a basic research program and noting an interesting observation. The basic knowledge base is required for any major discovery to be found. Albeit often disregarded by the public as unnecessary, basic research is the foundation of progress.

    That being said, drugs coming to the market are difficult to produce. We've picked off (as a former boss of mine used to say) all of the low hanging fruit. Now is when we have to get creative, look elsewhere, and think of alternative strategies (ie preventative medicine).
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    Feb 15 2011: I think we spend too much of our resources on finding cures for diseases which are preventable with proper nutrition. We already have the tools and knowledge for better health. More of our resources should be spent on prevention. See Dr. Jason Lee N.D. speaking on this issue at TEDxOakville http://tedxoakville.com/jason-lee-individual-health-is-a-driving-force-behind-global-health/