By: Amy Wotawa.
If you were planning one last vacation before the long, cold winter hits, don’t plan on spending it at one of our national parks or museums. If you don’t already have a passport, traveling out of the country won’t be an option either. The partial government shutdown has far-reaching impacts, and many of us have been personally affected or know someone who has in one form or another. I personally know co-workers whose family members are essential employees and are heading to work every day sans pay. Businesses and potential homebuyers seeking government loans will have to wait until the shutdown is over. Many industries have been and will be affected by the ongoing government shutdown. The biotech industry is no exception.
The biotech industry thrives on both private and government funding and operates in accordance with established regulations. During the partial government shutdown, the FDA is operating at limited capacity with almost half of its staff on furlough. This means that only activities directly related to public health and safety will be ongoing during this time. Facility inspections and regulation enforcement activities will also be limited. Any biotech entities in the midst of the drug review and approval process are likely to be subjected to delays in the process. There is likely to be a backlog of new drug applications to be processed once the agency is again operating at full capacity.
Researchers who rely on government funding and resources are also feeling the pain of the shutdown. Researchers in the private sector, academia, and government agencies alike are being impacted. NIH has been forced to furlough almost three-quarters of its staff, including NIH researchers who have had to abandon their ongoing experiments. Researchers outside of the institute who rely on NIH funds have found access to these funds denied leaving them to find other ways to fund their experiments or halt them altogether. In addition, many online databases and resources maintained by NIH will remain accessible but will not be updated as usual during the shutdown, including PubMed, GenBank, and BLAST. These databases are accessed by researchers from around the world, and while still available, they are being operated with minimal staff and resources due to the lapse in government funding.
While the biotech industry is feeling the effects of the shutdown, most researchers will persevere and weather this storm. The industry is full of tenacious, dedicated scientists who believe in their work and the work of their colleagues. The biotech industry may be experiencing a bump in the road right now, but it will be back up to speed and on its way to ground-breaking new discoveries soon.