Statement in Support of Federal Funding of Biomedical Research
As an organization of physicians who care for desperately ill patients and scientists devoted to understanding the basic mechanisms of disease and discovering new therapies, the American Society of Hematology (ASH) staunchly supports the federal funding of the biomedical research enterprise as well as the highly successful partnership created between the federal government, academia, and industry.
Biomedical research and development is a continuing process. New knowledge yields new drugs, devices, and procedures; the study of their mechanisms of action generates more knowledge and refinements that enable the development of even better therapies. Whether a hypothesis originates in a university laboratory or starts with basic research in the private sector, important findings permeate through the entire scientific community. Each new finding serves as a building block for establishing a deeper understanding of human health and disease.
Federal funding of biomedical scientific research has generated a wealth of new discoveries that are improving human health, extending life spans, and raising society’s standard of living. Americans, as well as people around the world, are living longer and are less likely to succumb to many of the diseases that threatened our health in the past. Moreover, biomedical research has led to improved diagnostics that identify many illnesses sooner and significantly upgrade the prognosis for treatment and recovery. Overall, biomedical research has led to an improved outlook for the victims of many disorders and dramatically improved their quality-of-life.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the primary source of federal funding for biomedical research in the US. NIH works in concert with several other federal agencies to fund biomedical research, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Through robust peer-reviewed research grant and training programs, these agencies promote and fund the best scientific research and ensure that human research subjects are protected. The results of these studies will translate into improved medical care.
Between fiscal years (FYs) 1998 and 2003, the American public, through its elected leaders in Congress, exhibited a strong commitment to increase funding for biomedical research by doubling the funding of NIH from $13 billion to more than $27 billion per year. However, rather than capitalizing on the massive amount of new information generated in every field of biomedical science from the NIH doubling by continuing the commitment, the government’s recent funding for NIH has waned. Constrained budgets have limited the ability of NIH and other agencies to build on these scientific discoveries. Currently, many proposals under consideration for setting federal biomedical research funding levels do not even keep up with the cost of medical inflation, effectively proposing cuts in funding.
For the nation’s biomedical research enterprise to be a successful endeavor, the federal government must support the training of a large cadre of young investigators. With shrinking federal budgets, funding to train these new researchers is becoming increasingly difficult to find. Moreover, restrained budgets also have an adverse effect on well-trained physicians and scientists entering the field of biomedical research. Even short-term drops in funding drive such individuals into other fields. The loss of such gifted talent will have long-term consequences on our nation’s ability to translate scientific advances into better approaches for the prevention and treatment of disease.
ASH believes that the funding of biomedical research is an important goal for the US government. The involvement of government agencies, such as NIH, in the biomedical research enterprise ensures that the process for allocating funds among all scientific disciplines is thoroughly scrutinized and the best science is supported. Federal funding also allows scientific research to take a long-term approach that does not necessarily have a quick return on investment but could eventually lead to enduring advances that improve human health. In addition, the federal government’s philosophy to fund a significant amount of investigator-initiated research guarantees that science is held paramount over other concerns. The research partnership created between the government, academia, and industry ensures that new discoveries are thoroughly tested, and when successful, quickly translated from the laboratory bench to the patient’s bedside.
The biomedical research enterprise has made a significant amount of progress in fighting disease and disability, but there is still more work to be done. With profound advances in isolating human stem cells, mapping the human genome, and understanding fundamental causes of human disease, the American government should be increasing its commitment to fund biomedical research and not restraining spending in this area. In addition to stifling research advances, diminishing federal support of biomedical research curbs the training of the next generation of physician and Ph.D.-investigators. Because we face tremendous health challenges and live in a time of unparalleled scientific opportunity, ASH encourages the federal government to appropriately fund biomedical research to ensure that we capitalize on scientific innovations that lead to improvements in the health of our patients.
For fiscal year 2006, the Society fully supports the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research Funding recommendation of $30 billion for NIH, a $1.5 billion or 6 percent increase over FY 2005. This 6 percent increase represents an important step in maintaining NIH’s commitment to medical research funding and provides comprehensive support for basic, clinical, and translational research.
Founded in 1958, ASH represents nearly 13,000 clinicians and scientists committed to the study and treatment of blood and blood-related diseases. These diseases encompass malignant hematologic disorders such as leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma; and non-malignant conditions including anemia and hemophilia; and congenital disorders such as sickle cell anemia and thalassemia. In addition, hematologists have been pioneers in the fields of bone marrow transplantation, gene therapy, and many drugs for the prevention and treatment of heart attacks and strokes.