Drop in federal funding threatens 22 jobs at the Broad Institute

Broad Institute HQ--Courtesy of the Broad Institute

While budget constraints at NIH have put the squeeze on researchers, the growing potential of genome sequencing offers it some protection from cutbacks. However, fluctuations in federal funding awards can affect all sectors. Such a shift in spending has put 22 jobs at the Broad Institute under threat.

The potential layoff of technicians, research scientists and other staffers at the Harvard-MIT genomics research center is the result of a decrease in funding from a National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases program. NIAID gives cash to the Broad Institute, J. Craig Venter Institute and Institute for Genome Sciences at the University of Maryland School of Medicine for sequencing the genomes of infectious diseases. The contracts shrunk this year. Having received an average of $11 million each per year, the sequencing centers are now sharing a $14 million pot.

Such falls--and rises--in funding are inevitable when divvying up finite research budgets. "As contracts, these centers are funded depending on research requirements which vary year over year. No program cuts or sequestration cuts were made. All contract requirements thus far have been met," NIAID spokesperson Nalini Padmanabhan told Boston.com. NIAID continues to invest in other areas as it seeks to make best use of its cash. The sequencing program provides it with the genomes of pathogens that cause emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.

The J. Craig Venter Institute and the Institute for Genome Sciences expect to retain all their staff despite the funding drop, GenomeWeb reports, but 22 jobs at Broad Institute are under threat. The goal now is to find the employees new positions within the Broad Institute. "We sincerely hope we will be able to retain as many as possible at the Broad Institute and therefore limit the number that will need to seek jobs elsewhere," Broad Institute spokesperson Nicole Davis said.

- read Boston.com's article
- here's GenomeWeb's coverage (reg. req.)