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Funding slowing for biomedical research

Mar 2010
Laura S. Marshall,

“Biomedical research is valued highly by individuals, governments, foundations and corporations,” wrote Dr. E. Ray Dorsey and colleagues in a recent article. “Research is seen as a source of more effective treatments and preventive measures and as a route to political policy, economic development and new commercial products.”

But that doesn’t mean it always gets sufficient funding. In terms of rate of increase, funding for biomedical research is slowing down; in terms of level of funding from industry and the National Institutes of Health, it is dropping, according to Dorsey’s team’s recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA, 2010;303[2]:137-143).

Dorsey, of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, is an MBA as well as a medical doctor, and he and his colleagues wrote the recent article as a follow-up to their 1994-2003 US biomedical research funding analysis; this time, they studied the 2003-08 period. They used publicly available data and quantified funding from industry, private and government (local, state and federal) sources for their analysis, employing models to compare financial trends between the two time periods.

They found that total biomedical research funding increased 14 percent from 2003 to 2007. “In our previous study, funding increased at a compound annual growth rate of 7.8 percent for 1994-2003 compared with a compound annual rate of 3.4 percent for 2003-2007,” the authors noted.

For 2008, only the NIH and industry funding data were available; adjusting for inflation, the group found that NIH and industry funding for this type of research dropped from $90.2 billion in 2007 to $88.8 billion in 2008.

Industry was the biggest source of funding for biomedical research, the authors added: At 58 percent of all expenditures in 2007, industry was well ahead of the NIH, which earned second place with 27 percent of expenditures. NIH contributions decreased by 8.6 percent from 2003 to 2007, while total federal funding increased by 0.7 percent; in the earlier period, from 1994-2003, total federal funding increased by nearly 100 percent.

The authors also said that investment for research seems to have returned to an older “cyclical” pattern of increases, seen since the 1940s, and warn that it could have a negative effect not only on available funds for research but also on research itself.

“The rate and cyclic nature of sponsorship affects researchers and institutions, because it influences career choice, selection of projects, building of laboratories and establishment of new programs,” they wrote. “It makes them cautious and may portend a trend to favor incremental research rather than high-risk/high-reward avenues, which have particular value to refractory diseases and those of great clinical or public health impact.”

Americasbiomedicalbiomedical researchBiophotonicsBusinesscommercial productscompound annual growth ratecorporationdoctorE. Ray Dorseyeconomic developmentfinancial trendsfoundationfundingfunding analysisgovernmentJAMALaura MarshallMBANational Institutes of HealthNew YorkNIHpolitical policypublic healthRapidScanrefractory diseaseUniversity of RochesterUniversity of Rochester Medical Center

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