Public Funding Essential for Advances in Biomedical Research

In the budget President Trump recently submitted to Congress, he asked for a reduction in the 2018 funding of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) of almost 20 percent - or $6 billion. That could have consequences for those suffering from a variety of illnesses and conditions and for biomedical innovation, based on results from an article to be published in Science and coauthored by Assistant Professor Danielle Li of Harvard Business School, Professor Pierre Azoulay of MIT Sloan School of Management and the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), and Associate Professor Bhaven N. Sampat of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and NBER.

"Our article, 'The Applied Value of Public Investments in Biomedical Research,' shows that publicly-funded research creates knowledge that links to private companies' efforts to develop drugs, medical devices, and other patented biomedical products," says Harvard's Li. "We find that 30 percent of NIH-funded grants produce research that is cited by a private-sector patent."

NIH, the world's largest single funder of research in the life sciences, provides support for 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. Using data on life science patents (including drugs, devices, and other medical technologies), Li, Azoulay, and Sampat analyze 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.

"We find that about 10 percent of NIH grants generate a patent directly - an easier-to-grasp metric that policy makers often focus on to capture the near-term economic returns to public funding of biomedical R&D," say the authors. "According to our research, however, a much larger number of NIH grants - about 30 percent of them - generate articles that are subsequently cited by commercial patents. Focusing solely on the direct patent output of NIH funding may dramatically understate its importance for producing research that informs commercial innovation."

In addition, Li, Azoulay, and Sampat find 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.

Danielle Li, Pierre Azoulay, Bhaven N. Sampat.
The applied value of public investments in biomedical research.
Science, 2017, eaal0010, doi: 10.1126/science.aal0010.

Most Popular Now

HIMSS IMPACT Big Data in Medicine

20 - 21 Novemebr 2017, Potsdam, Germany. Big Data looks set to become a game-changer for healthcare and is likely to have a groundbreaking effect in all areas - from health...

New App Uses Smartphone Selfies to Scree…

Pancreatic cancer has one of the worst prognoses - with a five-year survival rate of 9 percent - in part because there are no telltale symptoms or non-invasive screening tools...

New Diagnostic Tool Spots First Signs of…

Researchers have developed the first tool that can diagnose Parkinson's disease when there are no physical symptoms, offering hope for more effective treatment of the condition. There are currently no...

Nurses Becoming e-Nurses by Using Patien…

The ambitions of NHS Digital’s e-nursing week and the Royal College of Nursing's (RCN) 'Every nurse an e-nurse' campaign are being realised by nurses across the UK, who are seeing...

Google Glass App Helps Autistic Children…

A prototype software application, to be used with the optical head-mounted display Google Glass, has been designed as a social-skills coach for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A new...

Stroke Patient Improvement with a Brain-…

University of Adelaide researchers have shown that it is possible for stroke patients to improve motor function using special training involving connecting brain signals with a computer. In a "proof-of-principle...

eHealth Hub Call: Lean Startup Academy

The Lean Startup Academy is an unique opportunity to mature your business by systematically testing your ideas against the market with the support of experts. The course will help you...

NHS 'Will be Hit by More Cyber Attacks'

Concern about NHS cyber security has increased following the WannaCry attack and healthcare management professionals expect it to come under further attack from "organised hacktivists", according to a new survey...

Philips Innovations at IFA 2017 Put Cons…

At this year's Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA) in Berlin, Germany, Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHIA) showcases new products and services that empower consumers to take an active role in managing...

eHealth Hub: Investment Readiness Traini…

eHealth Hub presents to European SMEs the opportunity to take part in upcoming Health Pioneers event (25 October) on new health technology and related investment scene. The day before the...

Adoption of Robotics into a Hospital's D…

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland studied the implementation of a logistics robot system at the Seinäjoki Central Hospital in South Ostrobothnia. The aim is to reduce transportation costs, improve...