When 2013 rolled in, we read stories about the first babies born in the New Year. Parents will be happy to know their newborns have a life expectancy of 79 years — a very long life.
In my lifetime, we've seen polio and smallpox wiped out, and the survival rate for many cancers greatly increased. We're on the path to personalized medicine — treatments designed for each of us, based on our own genetic code.
Lifesaving advances come at great cost. Where does the money come from?
Previously, I mentioned the resources necessary to support a growing bioscience sector. One is access to capital, and one of the most critical forms of early capital is the research grant.
Industry funds the largest percentage of research and development (R&D). The federal government contributes more than a quarter of total R&D funding, and almost 60 percent of funding for basic research.
Federal research grants contribute not only to the development of new knowledge, new technologies and new treatments, but to the health of the economy.
One example is the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the world's leading supporter of biomedical research. The agency invests more than $30 billion annually in medical research.
Funds are awarded through competitive grants to more than 300,000 researchers at more than 2,500 universities, medical schools and other research institutions in every state.
National Institutes of Health research funding stimulates economic growth right here in Oklahoma. Oklahoma received 178 NIH-funded grants totaling nearly $82.5 million in Fiscal Year 2011. Each NIH dollar invested returned $2.21 in new business activity. The funding resulted in 1,786 new jobs with an average annual salary of $39,081.
Federal funding has a direct impact on Oklahomans' health as well. OU's Harold Hamm Diabetes Center recently received a $10.8 million NIH grant to continue funding an important research and mentoring program.
Diabetes is an especially costly disease for Oklahoma. More than 10 percent of Oklahoma adults have diabetes, while the national average is 6.2 percent.
Federally funded R&D faces a significant threat. While Congress dealt with the tax side of the “fiscal cliff” in the early hours of the New Year, automatic spending cuts still loom.
At a recent Congressional hearing, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins expressed concerns that an estimated $2.4 billion in cuts to NIH for FY 2013, if enacted, would “do serious damage” to progress in medical research.
If the cuts are enacted, Oklahoma could lose out on more than $9 million in NIH funding annually. Loss of federal research dollars will almost inevitably be bad for our health, bad for our economy, and bad for Oklahoma.
Sheri Stickley is president and CEO of the Oklahoma Bioscience Association, www.okbio.org