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

NHS Staff Punished as 500,000 Rely on Wh…

WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and other unauthorised instant messaging (IM) apps are being used by approximately 500,000 NHS staff at work, as a growing number turn to consumer tools to communicate...

Call for Abstracts: European Telemedicin…

27 - 29 May 2018, Sitges, Barcelona, Spain. The European Telemedicine Conference 2018 (ETC18) is an interdisciplinary forum for healthcare professionals, directors, managers, and researchers with the intent of bringing together...

conhIT 2018: The stage is Set for Dialog…

17 - 19 April 2018, Berlin, Germany. Finding out about and supporting all aspects of the digital transformation of the healthcare system: that is what this year's conhIT, Europe's largest event...

Smartphone 'Scores' can Help Doctors Tra…

Parkinson's disease, a progressive brain disorder, is often tough to treat effectively because symptoms, such as tremors and walking difficulties, can vary dramatically over a period of days, or even...

Focus on the Digital Transformation - A …

17 - 19 April 2018, Berlin, Germany. How is the digitalisation of the healthcare system affecting the relationship between patients and doctors? What new innovations and solutions does the health IT...

Portable Device Detects Severe Stroke in…

A new device worn like a visor can detect emergent large-vessel occlusion in patients with suspected stroke with 92 percent accuracy, report clinical investigators at the Medical University of South...

Imitation is the Most Sincere Form of Fl…

For every two mobile apps released, one is a clone of an existing app. However, new research published in the INFORMS journal Information Systems Research shows the success of the...

Merck Partners with Medisafe to Help Imp…

Merck, a leading science and technology company, today announced a new collaboration with US-based Medisafe to help its cardiometabolic patients better manage medication intake and adhere to prescribed treatment regimens...

Philips Research-led Big Data Consortium…

Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHIA), a global leader in health technology, together with its consortium partners, today announced that it has received funding from the EU's Horizon 2020 program...

Smartphone App Performs Better than Trad…

A smartphone application using the phone's camera function performed better than traditional physical examination to assess blood flow in a wrist artery for patients undergoing coronary angiography, according to a...

Deep Learning Transforms Smartphone Micr…

Researchers at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering have demonstrated that deep learning, a powerful form of artificial intelligence, can discern and enhance microscopic details in photos taken by smartphones...