Potential NIH budget cuts

Surely everyone has seen the news of the new proposal to return NIH budgets to 2008 levels. Calls for those of us in the public sector research enterprise to call or write our Congress Critters are coming from all of our professional organizations right now. If you’re going to call or write your rep, it might be worthwhile to have some numbers in hand to remind that staffer of the impact of NIH research. We all talk about impact on health outcomes, etc., and maybe some of us talk about economic impact of NIH investment but the role of NIH research in private sector development has been harder to pin down (and some of the previous adversarial industry vs. academia spats have not helped). A major argument I have heard from Republicans is that while NIH research is nice and all, the main driver for health care innovation is the private sector. The primary innovation area is widely viewed as pharmaceutical development. This brand spanking new NEJM paper throughs a serious wrench into that argument.

For the too lazy to click crowd, here is a pretty table from the paper:

My favorite part of this, and the argument I am going to use, is that new indications for existing drugs is coming almost entirely from public sector research. There are serious cost savings opportunities to be found going this route and FDA approvals for new indications is just the tip of the iceberg.

Unfortunately for me, my rep, who is almost always responsive to these things, is not able to do the job she has done so terrifically for the past several years right now. I have a feeling, though, that her friends, family and staff can be counted on for strong NIH funding support so I’m gonna ring up the local office.

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5 responses to “Potential NIH budget cuts

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Potential NIH budget cuts | JUNIORPROF -- Topsy.com

  2. I am sorry to say but I disagree with the writer here. NIH budget cuts are required as a lot of money is squandered in the name of research. Researchers are not the best money managers and the money is spent inappropriately. I agreewith the author about orphan diseases and the loss to that funding will be hit hard but it can still be managed even after the cuts. I think NIH can cut even more. Most of the money is not spent for genuine research and America as a leader in this field is a past. Sure they still win the Nobels etc but what is the country of origin of these researchers. For America to succeed, the most important criteria is that Americans have to be interested in research which they are absolutely not. A large number who accept these NIH grants waste it away in furthering their careers, not necessarily science. They hire cheap labor from foreign countries and work them like dogs, most not even getting a day off in years. There are no exchange of ideas or furthering research. It is like a slave labor camp. In this environment research cannot flourish. In addition, the medical doctors with hardly any research experience receive enormous amounts of money for translational research for which they have little or no experience pushing people with years and years of research experience even down in the dumps.

  3. Aren, could you provide an example of how exactly “a lot of money is squandered in the name of research” ?
    It is true that in Science people work way more than the average for relatively little money, but I do not see how this is an argument for cutting research funds…Plus of course all scientists working in big pharma were previously trained in academic labs primarily supported by the NIH and the NSF. The impact of these cuts in our competitive edge is going to be just brutal.
    Regarding your xenophobic view of the proper research model in the US, the first thing that we did after WWII was to recruit the best German scientists for our programs. Attracting the best and the brightest from all over the world is the model that has worked for decades for us. Until the Bush administration decided to show the white flag of surrounding in the war against cancer and other diseases to initiate bloodier wars.
    It is really depressing to read comments like yours, really.

  4. Science is a crappy career

    I agree with aren.
    After spending 6 years in a PhD program at Johns Hopkins, I realized that the career path for life scientists is absolutely awful. The primary reason is that there is a huge glut of foreigners clogging up the system willing to work 18hrs a day for very little money. Although I was successful in graduate school, I realized that I only had a 15% chance of running my own lab and I would never make any money. Therefore, I left for a more lucrative field like almost every other American in my program. Now for the first time, due to the growth of the BRIC economies, all these foreign born PhDs and Postdocs have better opportunities back home, which will eliminate America’s lead in innovation. The problem is not funding. The problem is that the structure of science training and the influx of foreign students disincentivizes Americans from entering or staying in science. More funding just exacerbates the problem. Produce way less scientists and give them a decent salary and America will continue to lead in innovation.

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