It turns out, they like us, or so they say. Biomedical researchers should take note that for the second year in a row, U.S. Senate appropriators have declared funding the National Institutes of Health a...
Congress passed a bill that will fund the federal government through the end of FY14 (September 30, 2014). This agreement provides some relief to our nation's federally funded science agencies, but the Coalition for the Life Sciences (CLS) is concerned that the agreement falls far short of what the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other funding agencies need to support essential research that will fight diseases, retain the next generation of scientists in the system and keep the U.S. at the leading edge of medical and technological development.
The appropriations bill sets funding for the NIH at $29.9 billion for FY14. That represents a $1 billion increase from where NIH's funding levels stood in 2013, after sequestration, but it is still $700 million short of pre-sequester levels. On the positive side the bill provides $7.2 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF), an increase of 4% over the FY13 budget, after sequestration.
Federally funded scientific research has produced fundamental discoveries about physiology and disease that have brought medical research to a moment of exceptional opportunity. Thanks to federally funded research, the promise has never been greater for Americans suffering from serious illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, depression and Parkinson's. On the other hand, market forces have driven the private sector away from such fundamental studies, so public investment will be essential to extend our chances of finding treatment or cures for chronic and debilitating diseases.
Further, the economic benefits of NIH and NSF funding are staggering. Discoveries and new innovations drive cost savings by decreasing disease burdens. For example, if a treatment to delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease for five years became available in 2015, healthcare spending would be reduced by $42 billion by the year 2020. The only way to dramatically reverse the almost certain crushing burden of disease is to invest in federally funded medical research.
Local economies also benefit from federal funding of biomedical research. NIH and NSF support investigators at our universities, research institutions, and medical schools, who produce the innovations that improve medical care. Most research grants are awarded to individual labs, so cuts in federal funding cause layoffs and threaten the very existence of laboratories that took decades to build. Past cuts and years of flat funding have already forced talented scientists to stop their research—research that potentially could have produced breakthroughs for tomorrow's treatments and cures. Moreover, funding cuts have disproportionally affected young investigators trying to launch and establish their research programs. We risk losing the next generation of brilliant scientists to other careers and to other countries and, with them, a generation of promising research that could cure disease for countless millions.
Fostering the growth of the nation's biomedical enterprise is essential if we hope to lower the cost of health care, bring life-saving treatments to patients who cannot afford to wait, and reinvigorate the economy. The CLS stands committed to work with Congress to restore the funding necessary for a healthy and robust U.S. biomedical research enterprise.