Cuts in NIH budget could impact biomedical innovation

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The Donald Trump administration recently in its budget cut the funding of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) by almost 20 per cent or $6 billion and this cut according to scientists could not only hamper biomedical innovation but also severely impact patients suffering from variety of illnesses and conditions.

According to a paper authored by scientists at Harvard Business School and colleagues from a number of other institutes and universities, research carried out using public funds helps create knowledge that ultimately links to private companies that advance the research and commercialize it by creating drugs, medical devices and patented products to target a range of illnesses.

NIH is the world’s largest single funder of research in the life sciences and supports around one-third of biomedical R&D in the United States, as well as the majority of funding for so-called “basic” or broad-based biomedical research.

The paper shows that at least 10 per cent of the NIH grants generate patents directly. The authors of the paper point out that the administration shouldn’t focus solely on the direct patent output of NIH funding as it may dramatically understate its importance for producing research that informs commercial innovation. 30 per cent of the NIH-funded research ends up being cited by private companies for their patents that ultimately get transformed into products that help patients.

Researchers also found that grants for “basic” science are almost just as likely to be cited by patents as grants for more “applied” work–which may be surprising to those who question its practical value.

For the study researchers analyzed the output of research grants awarded by NIH over a 27-year period and provide a method for large-scale accounting of linkages between these public research investments and their commercial applications. Recognizing that some patents are more valuable than others, they also examine linkages between NIH grants and patents associated with marketed drugs.