September 13, 2018
Today is Rally for Medical Research Capitol Hill Day, hosted by the American Association for Cancer Research and co-sponsored by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The purpose of the day is to advocate for, and promote the importance of, medical research to encourage Congress to make increased funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) a priority.
Our research mission depends on the NIH’s competitive grant process to provide support for our basic, translational, and clinical investigations. We are supportive of research that spans so-called “curiosity-driven” science (where applications are not immediately apparent) to clinical research involving human subjects. The ultimate aim is to improve health and wellness through prevention of disease, improved diagnostics, innovative therapies, and public health interventions.
The NIH is the nation’s premier medical research agency, comprised of 27 institutes and centers. It is the largest public funder of biomedical and behavioral research in the world. Nationally, more than half of all NIH-funded extramural research is conducted at medical schools and teaching hospitals. Over the last three years, Congress has been working to increase the NIH budget, which dropped 22 percent from 2003-2015 due to cuts, sequestration, and inflation.
The U.S. Senate recently recent passed a spending bill with a FY19 NIH budget of $39.1 billion, a 5.4 percent increase over its fiscal year 2018 budget. The Senate’s bill includes $425 million in new funding for Alzheimer’s research (for a total of $2.3 billion) and $500 million dedicated to opioid addiction research. The House has yet to pass its version of the NIH budget, which calls for a more modest 3 percent increase. Even though this looks like good news for the NIH (and thus for science), when corrected for inflation, the proposed FY19 funding level is less than it was in 2003.
“Therefore, the campaign for continued funding increase must be pursued vigorously,” explains Dr. John Byrne, associate dean for research. “We must convince the Congress to commit to substantial, and, importantly, consistent support for the NIH so that we at McGovern Medical School and research centers throughout the United States have the resources necessary to provide the scientific breakthroughs that will enhance the health and well-being of the people of Texas and throughout the world.”
Here at McGovern Medical School, NIH funding accounts for more than half of our biomedical research support. Our medical school’s NIH funding is up 10 percent over last fiscal year’s, for a total of $66,853,588.
NIH funding has more than just a local impact. NIH funding has helped to add $25.4 billion in research-related impact to the economy through our medical schools and teaching hospitals. Here in Texas, medical schools and hospitals generate 331,746 jobs, adding $27.1 billion to the Texas economy, according to the AAMC.
And let’s not forget the impact of the research itself – NIH-funded research has reduced the deaths of heart disease by 67 percent from 1969 to 2015, and helped to drop the cancer death rate by 26 percent over the last 12 years. In fact, the life expectancy in the United States has increased by 8 years (from 70.8 to 78.6 years), which is attributed in part to scientific research.
Please join me in thanking our scientists and please show your support for NIH funding today.
Please note: September is Women in Medicine month. More highlights to come.