The automatic budget cuts set to go into effect at the end of the year will have a devastating effect on medical research in the United States, according to the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB).

If sequestration goes into effect, as it is scheduled to do in January 2013, the budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is estimated to face a $2.5 billion cut, while the National Science Foundation could lose as much as $586 million and the Department of Energy Office of Science could lose as much as $400 million.

“Federal funding for research programs are not the source of our nation’s debt, and cuts to these and other programs are not the solution to our fiscal problems. We urge our elected leaders to act expeditiously to avoid the catastrophic consequences of sequestration and enable federal agencies to plan for the coming year,” FASEB President Judith S. Bond said Tuesday in a statement.

“The loss of funds due to sequestration will curtail vital research projects at universities and institutions in all 50 states and result in layoffs of thousands of Americans."

NIH grants support $30.9 billion worth of potentially life-saving medical research, according to the institute.

"Biomedical research funded by NIH has prevented immeasurable human suffering and has yielded economic benefits as well, thanks to U.S. citizens living longer, healthier, and more productive lives," NIH director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. told the Senate earlier this year.

"NIH is the leading supporter of basic biomedical research in the world," he added. "Put plainly, if we don’t fund basic research, most of this work would not get done, and it would be only a matter of time before this wellspring of new understanding and new therapies would dry up."

The sequestration was implemented by the Budget Control Act and requires huge automatic cuts to defense and nondefense programs. The sequestration, part of a political deal to raise the federal debt ceiling, was intended to force Republicans and Democrats to compromise on a budget.

[Doctors examining x-ray via Shutterstock]