American Society of Hematology

Report Urges Increase In NIH Budget to Keep U.S. Ahead in Biomed

Published on: May 18, 2012

The Chinese government plans to invest $309 billion in biotechnology over the next five years, twice the amount the U.S. government will spend on biomedical research over that period if current trends hold, a new report says.

A new report, titled "Leadership in Decline," says the U.S. is at risk of losing its position as global medical research leader as other countries increase their research outlays even as they cope with their own budget pressures.

Other countries are investing more than the U.S. in biomedical research relative to the sizes of their economies, says the report by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation and

United for Medical Research, a group of universities, patient advocacy groups and biotech companies.

The Chinese government, for example, plans to invest $309 billion in biotechnology over the next five years, twice the amount the U.S. government will spend on biomedical research over that period if current trends hold, according to the report.

U.S. funding of the National Institutes of Health "has been a decisive factor in building U.S. life sciences leadership and driving economic growth," the report says. "Congress should strive to fund NIH consistently at a level representing at least 0.25 percent of GDP," it adds. That works out to about $40 billion, up from $30.9 billion in fiscal 2012.

China "already has more gene sequencing capacity than the entire United States and about one-third of total global capacity," the report says. Indicators such as trade balances in pharmaceuticals and shares of global pharmaceutical output show that several other countries have become competitive with the U.S., according to the report.

The figures cited by the report for research funding by China dwarfs the U.S. figure for spending on NIH. But the report only looked at government spending. Specifically, the Chinese government is spending at a clip of about $60 billion a year on biotech while the NIH budget is half that.

The report authors briefed congressional staff at a Capitol Hill forum that included such panelists as National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins. Dr. Collins noted that he meets every six months with the heads of government medical research agencies of a number of other industrialized countries. "They are all looking at increases" in their budgets, he said. "For places like China and India, they are looking at double digit percentage increases." China's budget is going up 25 percent. "And I'm the only guy sitting at the table going, 'well, we'll be lucky if we're flat.' And of course flat really means we'll be losing about 3 percent of our buying power to inflation. They know that their way to retrieve themselves from tough economic times is to support this research.

"It is my hope that this thoughtful, unflinching report of those [spending] trajectories will attract enough attention to help us realize that our dominance of biomedical research cannot be taken any more as a given,'' Collins added. "It is under serious threat."

Under the budget control law, NIH is facing cuts of about 8 percent in January unless Congress comes up with an alternative way to reduce deficit spending. The Obama administration has proposed that the NIH budget be held flat next year. Republicans show signs of wanting to protect the NIH budget as well, though no increase of the size proposed by the report appears to be in the offing.

ASH has been a leading advocate for increased funding for the NIH. ASH submitted testimony to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees advocating for $32 billion for NIH, conducted Hill Days to visit with congressional offices, developed fact sheets that indicate how much each state and congressional district benefits from NIH funding, and has launched a grassroots advocacy campaign so that its members can contact Congress about this urgent issue. Most recently, the Society released the updated ASH Agenda for Hematology Research: 2012-2014. ASH is using the Research Agenda as a tool to educate the Congress on the value of the NIH and the most promising areas of research that require support.
 

The report by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation and United for Medical Research can be found at: http://www.unitedformedicalresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Leadership-in-Decline-Assessing-US-International-Competitiveness-in-Biomedical-Research.pdf 

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