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Report: NIH's 2011 Funds Supported $62.1B in Economic Activity

By Matt Jones

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Funding for basic research from the National Institutes of Health last year directly and indirectly supported more than 432,000 jobs in the US, and generated over $62.1 billion in new economic activity, according to an analysis from United for Medical Research.

The number of jobs the NIH funding supported last year dropped from 488,000 last year, when NIH spent $26.6 billion on extramural research, in part due to the ending of supplementary funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, according to UMR, which is a coalition of academic, non-profit, and business entities that advocate for and benefit from federal funding for biomedical research. Its partners include Life Technologies; Thermo Fisher Scientific; Becton Dickinson; the Biotechnology Industry Organization; the Association of American Universities; as well as several large research universities and disease-funding organizations.

The new analysis is an update to a larger report on NIH's economic impact that UMR released last year.

The report shows that "NIH remains a real powerhouse when it comes to economic activity, in terms of both the number of jobs it supports, directly and indirectly, and the overall economic activity, it supports," UMR President Carrie Wolinetz told GenomeWeb Daily News today.

UMR used the US Department of Commerce's Regional Input-Output Modeling System, or RIMS II, to calculate the direct and indirect impacts and multiplier effects of NIH funding.

Wolinetz explained that this effect goes well beyond the principal investigators who win grants. "If you think about the average research lab at the university, it is not just the people working at the lab, or the spin-off companies that are created by that lab, or even the biotech and pharmaceutical companies that are taking those discoveries and translating them into diagnostics, or medicines, or medical devices – it is also all of the vendors that are supplying that lab," she said. "It is the people who are selling them test tubes or mice. The multiplier [measurement] really takes into account the much broader sector environment."

The UMR analysis also broke down the number of jobs supported through NIH funding at the state-by-state level. It found that 13 states last year had more than 10,000 people with jobs supported by the NIH funds, and 24 states had at least 5,000.

According to UMR, the states that saw the largest number of jobs from the NIH funding included California (63,196 jobs), Massachusetts (34,598 jobs), New York (33,193 jobs), Texas (25,878 jobs), Maryland (24,557 jobs), and Pennsylvania (24,291 jobs).

UMR also suggested that there are other longer-term economic impacts that result from dynamic interplay between NIH spending and the private sector as discoveries advance toward the commercialization of new medicines, tests, devices, and procedures.

Wolinetz said that the state-by-state comparison numbers of jobs supported by NIH are "very compelling, particularly for those members of Congress who may not be aware how much extramural funding actually goes into their state."

The state-level numbers are "a way to illustrate something that is sometimes poorly understood by the public, or even members of Congress, which is that the vast majority of NIH funding is extramural," she said. "There is this perception that there is this campus in Bethesda and the money goes there, [but] the money is in every state, and that is what we're trying to convey."

The budget process for fiscal year 2013 is currently underway on Capitol Hill, with testimony on next year's NIH funding taking place in the House of Representatives and Senate appropriations committees this week and next.

Over the past three years the NIH budget has been essentially flat, and not adjusted for biomedical inflation.

In 2010, excluding funds from the ARRA, NIH was funded with $30.8 billion, while in FY2011 and 2012 it received $30.7 billion. For FY 2013, the White House has proposed another year of essentially flat funding at $30.7 billion.

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