Dikoma Shungu, PhD
Professor of Physics in Radiology
Weill Medical College of Cornell University
Like the proverbial snowball that grows bigger as it rolls down the hill, so goes funding for CFS research, as has been amply demonstrated by the seven-fold increase in follow-on investments earned by half of the Association’s 2008 grant recipients.
One of those grant recipients is Cornell University’s Dr. Dikoma Shungu, professor of physics in radiology and CFS researcher – and Catalyst Fund donor.
He explains the funding conundrum: “As is amply clear, the continuing skepticism that CFS is not a ‘real’ disease will not abate until there is foolproof, scientific evidence that this debilitating illness is a distinct medical entity with biological or organic causes. To achieve this objective will require funding of high-quality, groundbreaking research, which is scare and dwindling.
“The largest source of medical research funding is the National Institutes of Health (NIH). However, because research funds are limited, it is nearly impossible to compete for NIH funding without having strong preliminary data that support the validity of new research ideas or hypotheses about a disease that one wishes to investigate. This is even harder for CFS, which has no known causes. That is where small research funds that are provided by dedicated organizations like the CFIDS Association of America assume critical importance.
“With the support of the Association, my collaborators and I have been able to conduct small but high-quality and critically important pilot studies that have enabled us to test the validity of some of our ideas about the causes of CFS, and then to use the generated preliminary data to compete effectively for larger NIH grants to pursue those ideas. Case in point: using preliminary data obtained in a small pilot study supported by the Association, we submitted a grant application to the NIH to test ideas that could show that CFS was not a psychiatric disease, and were very recently informed that this application has been funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). And we’re preparing another NIH grant application, based on data generated with funding from the Association, to test a drug that we postulate could alleviate some of the disability associated with CFS.”
And Dr. Shungu explains his reason for becoming a Catalyst: “I chose to donate to the Catalyst Fund for two reasons: (a) as one who has spent the last six-to-seven years studying CFS and interacting with those affected, I have seen how debilitating this illness can be and am convinced that it is for real; and (b) the only way we can ever to hope to understand the causes of this disabling condition is through research, which cannot occur without financial support from all of us. In short, I chose to donate because ‘all that is necessary for this illness to triumph is for people of good will to do nothing’ (adapted from a famous statement by Sir Edmund Burke).”
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