Researchers hope successful federal legislation can boost opport - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Researchers hope successful federal legislation can boost opportunities at UW-Madison

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A November report from the National Science Foundation showing UW-Madison is no longer a top five research university prompted a lot of concern here in Dane County.
But local researchers say a bill passed by Congress Wednesday will do a lot to help research efforts both here and nationwide.

Melissa Harrison is a developmental biologist at UW-Madison who runs a research team trying to learn as much as it can about the way a sperm and egg create an entirely new organism.

"So, we're trying to understand how this happens during normal development so we can also use that technology, for instance, for stem cell and reprogramming," Harrison told 27 News.

At age 40, Dr. Harrison is young to have a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to pay for her work.

"In fact, the average age of the first major research grant has crept up from mid-30s to early 40s," said Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), speaking to 27 News just after the U.S. Senate passed the 21st Century Cures Act 94-5.

The Cures Act authorizes $4.8 billion in funding for NIH - the leading agency for scientific research funding in the United States.

But another part of that legislation includes an initiative from Sen. Baldwin called the Next Generation Research Act.

It authorizes the NIH to promote current and new research opportunities aimed for young scientists.

"There's a whole series of grants that are often given to researchers at the earliest stages of their careers, as long as they have say a more experienced mentor," said Sen. Baldwin.

Harrison said the legislation is exciting because it seeks to solve a true crisis in research funding.

"It is more making this apparent what a problem this is and tasking different committees - including the National Institutes of Health and the National Academy of Sciences - to investigate more fully what can be done and what strategies are successful in encouraging the best and brightest to start in this career and stay in this career and be successful," said Harrison.

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