The current generation of medical scientists is at-risk. In 2003, budget increases for the National Institutes of Health stopped. Since then, the NIH has experienced a 13% drop in real purchasing power.
The report was written by seven prestigious academic institutions concerned about health in America, and the world: Brown, Duke, Harvard, Ohio State, Partners Healthcare, UCLA and Vanderbilt. Their take is that the past five years of flat funding to the National Institutes of Health is leading to a lost generation of scientific innovators in America. The result? Lost opportunity to find cures for the future.
The report takes a different form from similar testimony offered on the subject of underfunding basic science. Twelve young researchers tell their personal stories of their drive to cure heart disease, cancers, brain and kidney disease — and how funding cuts have impacted their and their peers’ work.
“The risks are that people who have diseases that five or ten years from now should be curable are going to have to wait a lot longer. The knowledge is there, and we have the people who know exactly what to do to study the things that turn into cures. But they don’t have the funding to do it,” attests Nancy Andrews, M.D., Ph.D. Dean, Duke University Medical School.
Health Populi’s Hot Points: By effectively reducing funding for the NIH, there is now a backlog in research proposals for young scientists. The slow-down has resulted in the overall success rate for NIH project grants falling from 32% in 1999 to 24% in 2007. America’s science base is eroding. We may already by crying about the lack of pipeline in commercial pharma, but the NIH funding crisis speaks to the erosion of the basic science base which is a major pillar for commercial innovation.
The future for cures and medical innovation is thus compromised. The implications of this on the macroeconomy and, under that, meaningful jobs, the tax base, global trade, and the health of the nation are grim if greater funding for the NIH is not restored.