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Life Sciences Led Gains in US University R&D Spending in FY 2011

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – American universities increased their spending on life sciences research and development by nearly 7 percent in fiscal 2011, to a total of $37.23 billion, with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act accounting for most of the increase, according to a new analysis by the National Science Foundation.

R&D spending in all areas was up in FY 2011 compared with FY 2010, but life sciences led the pack, with funding for medical research gathering the largest cut of life sciences funding at $20.36 billion, up almost 6 percent from FY 2010. Also within the life sciences fields, agricultural research spending rose 5 percent to $3.13 billion and biological sciences rose 8 percent to $11.8 billion, according to NSF.

R&D expenditures for engineering came in a distant second in total funding over the period, but it saw a larger percentage increase in year-over-year funding, rising around 8 percent to $10.04 billion.

Looking broadly, university R&D spending among all 10 of the fields NSF surveyed rose from $61.19 billion to $65.07 billion in FY 2011 (NSF looked at academic fiscal years, generally measured from July 2010 to June 2011, instead of federal fiscal years).

A small part of the increase in R&D spending, around $533 million, was added because NSF increased the number of universities it studied between the two years from 742 to 912.

But the ARRA stimulus funding was the biggest factor in the R&D spending boost, as it contributed $4.16 billion in FY 2011. The stimulus funding accounted for roughly 10 percent of the federally funded R&D expenses during the period.

Academic institutions and nonprofit organizations also contributed more to R&D over the year, with institution-funded R&D rising over $500 million to $12.4 billion and nonprofit-funded R&D rising by $104 million to $3.8 billion. Funding from state and local governments and businesses were "virtually unchanged" year over year, NSF found.

The life sciences fields reeled in the most from each of these funding sources, receiving 67 percent of the funding from nonprofit organizations and 52 percent of the funding from the institutions themselves.

Duke University led the nation in total medical school R&D expenditures in FY 2011, spending $831 million, and in the top five it was followed by the University of California, San Francisco, which spent $785 million; Johns Hopkins University, which spent $646 million; the University of Pittsburgh, which spent $638 million, and Washington University – St. Louis, which spent $631 million.

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