Report urges U.S. leadership and funding for life sciences

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 17, 2012- The United States is not sustaining its historically strong investments in biomedical research that once propelled it to global life sciences leadership, while other nations are increasing their investments in the field, stated a report released by United for Medical Research (UMR) and The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) today. The report makes the case for increased federal investment in the National Institutes for Health (NIH) and similar agencies. 

“Baseline federal investment in biomedical research through the NIH has decreased in both inflation-adjusted dollars and as a share of GDP nearly every year since 2003,” according to the report. “At the same time, competing nations are significantly increasing their investments in biomedical research, in many cases investing a larger share of their economies than the United States.”

The UMR and ITIF argue that federal investment triggered and maintained the competitiveness of the U.S. life sciences industry, and that increasing this investment will help reduce the federal deficit. 

“The reality is that, if the United States wishes to reduce its budget deficit (while also reducing its investment and trade deficits) the only way to do so is by increasing targeted investments that spur innovation, productivity, and competitiveness, while cutting budget deficits elsewhere,” according to the report. 

The report warns that competing nations are significantly increasing their investments in biomedical research, while the United States' historically strong investments are waning.

“As a share of GDP, Singapore's funding of pharmaceutical industry R&D was nearly five times greater than that of the United States in 2009,” it states. “And if current investment trends in the United States and China continue, the U.S. government's investment in life sciences research over the next half-decade will be barely half of China's in actual dollars and roughly one-quarter China's level on a per-GDP basis.”

The United States' negative trade balances in pharmaceuticals and its lack of growth in pharmaceutical-industry employment are indicators that other countries' life sciences competitiveness is making an impact, states the report.  

“The dangers of the United States losing life-sciences competitiveness include diminished employment, lost economic growth, and loss to U.S. citizens of the benefits of innovative new drugs and therapies,” according to UMR and ITIF.

In its case for increased and sustainable funding for the National Institutes of Health, the UMR/ITIF report cites a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate, which states that an increase of 0.1 percent in the GDP growth rate could reduce the budget deficit by as much as $310 billion cumulatively over the next decade.

“This approach-investing in boosting the rates of innovation produced by key sectors such as the life sciences-is the most effective way to reduce the budget deficit,” states the report. “Other countries, like the United Kingdom, recognize these realities; that's why they are making the difficult choices to expand their investments in biomedical research, even in the face of daunting deficits.”

UMR and ITIF suggest that Congress should maintain NIH funding at a level commensurate with at least one quarter of one percent (0.25%) of national GDP or higher.

The report references technologies and industries that the United States created and once led, but has since lost its lead, including televisions and advanced displays, consumer electronics, and clean-energy technologies such as solar panels and rechargeable batteries.

“If we repeat those short-sighted mistakes in the life sciences, the United States can expect similar results,” states UMR/ITIF. “The reality is that America cannot afford not to increase its investment in life sciences research.”

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