The March of Dimes Foundation unexpectedly cut existing grant awards, jeopardizing research into 37 medical projects across the country, including two at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
At Johns Hopkins, research into microcephaly, a birth defect that causes children to have abnormally small heads and stunts brain development, is in peril, said Andrew Holland, an associate professor of molecular biology and genetics. His research, which received about $83,000 of a $250,000 March of Dimes grant, has led him to believe that the Zika virus could cause the disease.
His work likely will not continue.
“We’ve uncovered what we believe is the molecular basis,” said Holland, who is scrambling to save two jobs and laboratory animals. “This is the most important work I have ever done.
“To ensure we can make the greatest impact on our mission we are investing in programs that directly address the biggest threats to the health of moms and babies,” Moley said in a statement. “Recent changes in philanthropy and disruptions to the economy have been challenging to many nonprofits, including March of Dimes.”
Researchers across the country, Holland said, received emails last week saying money for their three-year grants would end in July.
“It’s pretty unheard of to end a grant without prior notice,” he said. “The funding ended Wednesday.”
Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers working with scientists in Colombia have discovered what they believe is the strongest evidence yet that the Zika virus causes neurological problems in adults. Much of the medical concern about the mosquito-borne Zika has been directed at pregnant women because the virus can cause microcephaly – brain damage and a abnormally small head – in babies. The new research shows the health fallout from the disease may be more widespread than once thought.
The March of Dimes should have warned scientists that cuts would be coming, especially with years of research in pipelines, Holland said. He said it is nearly impossible to find money quickly to sustain programs, often taking a year or longer.
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