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The Benefit of a Grant

NIH spends more than $21 billion a year on research grants, reports's Karen Weintraub. But now the federal institution wants to review how much benefit all this money is bringing to science, launching a program called STAR METRICS to monitor the impact of the dollars it grants. But even if it can't be precisely quantified, scientific research can still be counted as an "economic engine," Weintraub says, especially in Boston and its surrounding communities. "The NIH sends more than 10 percent of its research grants to Massachusetts, funneling more than $2 billion a year into the local economy," she adds. "In a 2008 report, Harvard estimated that its $3.5 billion annual budget generated $4.8 billion for the local economy." And because there are so many equipment makers and medical suppliers in the area, the dollars NIH sends to Boston tend to stay in the area, Weintraub says. Innovation leads to economic growth, but it takes time for an investment to show its benefits. Weintraub quotes Martin Buxton, director of the Health Economics Research Group at Brunel University in West London, who estimates that it takes about 17 years for an investment in research to visibly pay off. How much it pays off is up for debate, but researchers seem to agree that an investment in science is always a good bet, Weintraub says.

The Scan

Study Finds Sorghum Genetic Loci Influencing Composition, Function of Human Gut Microbes

Focusing on microbes found in the human gut microbiome, researchers in Nature Communications identified 10 sorghum loci that appear to influence the microbial taxa or microbial metabolite features.

Treatment Costs May Not Coincide With R&D Investment, Study Suggests

Researchers in JAMA Network Open did not find an association between ultimate treatment costs and investments in a drug when they analyzed available data on 60 approved drugs.

Sleep-Related Variants Show Low Penetrance in Large Population Analysis

A limited number of variants had documented sleep effects in an investigation in PLOS Genetics of 10 genes with reported sleep ties in nearly 192,000 participants in four population studies.

Researchers Develop Polygenic Risk Scores for Dozens of Disease-Related Exposures

With genetic data from two large population cohorts and summary statistics from prior genome-wide association studies, researchers came up with 27 exposure polygenic risk scores in the American Journal of Human Genetics.