But lack of funding almost derailed Wu's innovative research. Wu's lab lost funding last year when a federal grant expired and wasn't renewed by the government. His plight appeared in the April edition of Nature magazine, along with many other publications, during the past year.
"Funding is really tight right now," says Wu, adding he had to cut a technician's job last year. "My lab has been very productive, but because of the funding cut, we were in danger of closing."
A bicycle ride fundraiserthe New York City to Washington, D.C., AIDS ridehad raised some $300,000 from 2008 to 2010. The ride organizer, Marty Rosen, used crowdfunding and raised $20,000 for Wu's lab last summer. George Mason students, staff and researchers gave money as well. "That really helped us to purchase the essentials to keep the lab running," Wu says. A small grant from China-based pharmaceutical firm F. Hoffmann-La Roche helped too.
Still these efforts weren't enough to keep a major lab going for long. "I know some colleagues who closed their labs and left science because they couldn't get funding," Wu says. Federal funding used to fund about 30 percent of NIH grant applications, but now has dropped to fund about eight to 10 percent, he says, adding he applied for 14 grants in five months and too many to track for the entire year.
And then the $3.3 million NIH grant came through late last month. "All together, all these efforts really kept us alive until this grant was approved. We are all set for the next five years."
Mason students are working and learning in Wu's lab. "All of the test-tube work has been done by my students," Wu says.
|Contact: Michele McDonald|
George Mason University