Why the economy depends on federal funding for medical research

By Patrick Bartosch
February 22, 2012

When Sanford-Burnham CEO John Reed, M.D., Ph.D., traveled to Washington, D.C., in early February, he attended a variety of Capitol Hill briefings to discuss the importance of National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding for medical research. He pointed out that NIH grants account for approximately 80 percent of all funding for non-profit medical research institutions in the United States, such as Sanford-Burnham.

NIH grants contribute to the ultimate goal of developing new treatments for diseases and improving the quality of life for millions of Americans and people worldwide. The research supported by these grants also generates U.S. patents that fuel the biotechnology industry and creates thousands of jobs across the nation. NIH funding supports the training of our biomedical research workforce and strengthens the foundation of a 21st century knowledge-based economy.

Ultimately, NIH funding is the key to driving down health care costs, as well as improving productivity and the quality of life of Americans. Currently, the NIH invests more than $31 billion annually in medical research, creating 350,000 jobs. Pharmaceutical companies and biotechs spend approximately $70 billion annually for research, creating an additional 580,000 jobs. In total, $1 of public basic science funding stimulates $3.50 of pharmaceutical industry investment (based on 2007-2010 data).

In his Congressional briefing, Reed pointed out that with health care costs rising from $714 billion in 1990 to $2.3 trillion in 2008, it is important to invest in medical research, which in turn will eventually lower health care expenditures. At present, NIH funded research is estimated to save an average of $3.2 trillion in health care costs annually.

A current petition on the White House’s We the People page asks the Administration to increase NIH spending to $33 billion next fiscal year. The petition can be viewed and signed here.

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Patrick Bartosch

Patrick was a member of the Communications team at SBP’s Lake Nona campus.


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