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The Coalition for the Life Sciences (CLS) is grateful to Congress for their past support and extraordinary investment in medical research through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).
It is in the interest of our nation to support the NIH and the NSF. Members of Congress should oppose any efforts that weaken the biomedical enterprise.
I. NIH funding is key to enhancing the health and well-being of all Americans through new treatments and cures.
- In 1950, a child born with a congenital heart defect had only a 20% chance of surviving. Today, most children who have complex heart defects survive to adulthood and can enjoy active, productive lives.
- U.S. cancer death rates are now falling about 1% each year, with each 1% decline saving our nation about $500 billion.
- It is now possible to design drugs that go right to the vulnerable target of a disorder, thanks to the research produced from the Human Genome Project.
II. Funding for NIH and the NSF strengthens the U.S. economy.
- It has been estimated that every $1 of NIH funding generates about $2.21 in local economic growth.
- NIH and NSF funding forms key foundations for innovation and industries like biotechnology, medical device and pharmaceutical development, and more.
- More than 80% of the NIH’s funding is awarded through almost 50,000 competitive grants to more than 430,000 researchers at over 2,800 universities, medical schools, and other research institutions in every state and around the world.
- Over 2,000 small business ventures are funded by NIH through the Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR).
III. Flat funding of the NIH puts a generation of science and scientists at risk1
- Promising young investigators even at premier academic research institutions are having a hard time getting their research funded. That research could save lives.
- Junior investigators are competing for limited resources with their well-established mentors. The result: junior researchers are getting a smaller piece of the NIH funding pie. In 1990, they received 29% of R01 grants (the premier NIH research grant), but in 2007, they received 25% of R01s. Further, while the success rate has dropped for all R01 applicants, it is particularly low—only 18%—for first-time applicants. Junior investigators—who bring energy, creativity, and enthusiasm to the world of discovery—appear to be having the hardest time surviving in the current system.
- If young investigators are lost from the pipeline, we soon won’t have the scientific brain power that we need to move forward.
- We can lose a generation of researchers in just 5 to 10 years. We don’t have to lose 50,000 researchers, just 50 really good ones. Once it happens, we won’t get those people back.
IV. Our standing as the world leader in biomedical research will be compromised2.
- The United States has stood firmly at the forefront of the life sciences revolution, with this leadership built upon a solid commitment to robust and sustained federal investment in biomedical research and development.
- U.S. government’s investment in life sciences research over the next half-decade will be barely half of China’s in actual dollars and roughly one-quarter of China’s level on a per-GDP basis.
- Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Japan, Norway, and Sweden all have significantly increased in their government support for medical-science R&D.
- Losing U.S. life sciences competitiveness will include diminished employment, lost economic growth, and loss to citizens of the benefits of innovative new drugs and therapies.
- The United Kingdom recognizes these realities. The U.K. is making the difficult choice to expand its investments in biomedical research, even in the face of daunting deficits.
V. General points
- If we are to address the health challenges of an aging and increasingly diverse population, and remain a vibrant force in the global economy, America needs more investment in medical research.
- Continued, bold support for biomedical research holds the key to revolutionary new avenues of research that holds the promise for new early screenings devices and new treatments for disease.
- Discovery and innovation work best when funding is predictable and stable.
1Information from “A Broken Pipeline,” www.brokenpipeline.org
2“Leadership in Decline”, United for Medical Research