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Biomed Funding Supporters Cite NIH as Jobs Creator

By Matt Jones

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Making the case for the economic value of biomedical research funding, a political coalition of patient advocates, life science and pharmaceutical firms, and universities said Tuesday that the 2010 funding for the National Institutes of Health led to the creation of 487,900 jobs and generated $68.04 billion in new economic activity across the country.

Just as the divided US Congress is gearing up for what is expected to be a heated, high-stakes battle over the federal budget that funds NIH, the group United for Medical Research has released a new report breaking down how the $31.2 billion in 2010 NIH spending brought jobs to all 50 states and making the larger case for preserving its funding.

The UMR report focuses on making three main points about the payoff of NIH funding by emphasizing its direct economic value, the range of indirect activities that are fueled in part by NIH, and the importance of retaining a biomedical edge in an era of intensifying international competition.

The group also emphasizes how NIH funding has been in a general state of slow decline since hitting an apex in 2003 (when inflation is factored in and excluding the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act boost in 2009), and the amount of funding that goes to the states.

Pointing out the state-level economic value of NIH funding to individual representatives and senators could be a core strategy used by advocates of biomedical research, should that funding appear to be in line for the chopping block in the 2012 budget.

The recent continuing resolution to fund the government through 2011 resulted in a relatively small cut of $100 million for NIH (excluding inflation), but that was an agreement reached at the precipice of a government shutdown, and the 2012 budget is expected to be an even more hotly contested process.

The Republican leadership in the House of Representatives already has passed a budget calling for over $6 trillion in federal cuts over the next 10 years, which if passed would likely affect most if not all federal agencies. And the White House has already proposed a 2012 budget that would cut most discretionary spending but would boost NIH's funding to $31.8 billion, or 2.4 percent over 2012.

"The UMR report highlights the economic impact of the NIH, and besides the job impact by state, there is the critical aspect of driving biomedical innovation in the US," Jim Prutow, partner and head of quality/FDA Practice at the management consulting firm PRTM, told GenomeWeb Daily News today.

"Innovation is key to the overall US economy, as seen by Silicon Valley for high tech, and the US continues to be the leader in biomedical products. The NIH plays a critical role in early basic research through its own labs, and in the funding for academic institutions, which industry does not typically sponsor, so that new innovations can be utilized in industry for new products," he added.

"In the patient advocacy community, we often highlight the impact of NIH funding on groundbreaking advancements in research, such as improvements in treating heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease," Donna Arnett, chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association, a UMR coalition member, said in a statement.

"But this report takes us a step further, highlighting the significant contribution of NIH in boosting economic activity and employment across every state in the US, especially critical as our economy is faced with growing public debt and fiscal deficits," she continued. "We hope members of Congress take a close look at this report as they wade into FY12 budget discussions this spring, and vote to increase NIH funding to help patients, boost job growth and keep our country competitive."

UMR's members include Life Technologies, BD, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, PhRMA, the Association of American Universities, and other companies, patient advocate groups, and universities.

The report was issued concurrently with a report from Battelle Technology Partnership Practice, saying that the US government's $3.8 billion in spending on the Human Genome Project over 15 years has been critical to driving a total of $796 billion in economic output.

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