The California Healthcare Institute (CHI) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) today released a report, The National Institutes of Health: Fueling Healthcare Innovation in California, urging legislators to support increased funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) “ the backbone of the biomedical industry in California, which employs more than 267,000 people in high wage jobs. Without a sustained commitment of funding, scientists, academicians and leaders in the biomedical industry in California profiled in the report fear the biomedical ecosystem in California, made up of universities, research institutions and industry, will lose its capacity to produce the next generation of inventions to treat and cure disease.

Today™s medical advances in cancer, HIV/AIDS and cardiovascular and infectious diseases are the products of basic scientific research that took place decades ago, largely funded by governmental grants from NIH, said David Gollaher, Ph.D., CHI™s president and chief executive officer. The U.S. has to make a commitment to provide sustained funding to NIH so that the next generation of innovations that will improve public health come to fruition, or we risk not only America™s competitiveness, but global health.

In the past, legislators have been committed to funding biomedical research and the benefits it yields to patients, researchers, institutions, local economies and the nation™s standing as a biomedical leader, and California researchers have consistently been awarded the largest share of NIH funding. In 2007, the NIH awarded California institutions 7,357 grants totaling $3.16 billion ” the most funding allocated to any state. As the top NIH funding recipient, California received 15 percent of total NIH funds distributed nationwide in 2007.

However, as the federal deficit soars and legislators pare back discretionary spending, the NIH has come under intense pressure. In the first true budgeted reduction in NIH funding since 1970, the 2007 budget represented a 0.1 percent decrease from 2006 (a 3.8 percent decrease when adjusted for inflation). President Bush™s budget request for fiscal 2008 called for $28.9 billion, which was $379 million less than the NIH received in 2007, and because the request included a $201 million funding transfer, the decrease was actually $581 million.

According to the CHI/PwC NIH Supplement Survey, the results of which are detailed in the report, the competition for peer-reviewed grants is rising and investigators must revise proposals several times in order to receive grants that are oftentimes lower in amount and shorter in duration than requested. Funding constraints prohibit faculty from maintaining sufficiently staffed labs and limit them from hiring qualified younger researchers. The report outlines how, over time, longer, more tenuous proposal cycles and fewer research dollars will have negative downstream implications for future workforce development, and ultimately sustained innovation.

Some of the countless medical advances that have come from leading California research institutions and universities through research that was funded by NIH are profiled in the report, including:

  • University of California researchers discovered proto-oncogenes, or normal genes that have the potential to convert to cancer genes. The discovery is transforming the way scientists look at cancer and leading to new strategies for cancer detection and treatment.
  • University of Southern California scientists discovered the association between CD4 (T-cells that help protect the body from infection) counts and the opportunistic infection pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) in children. The discovery defined CD4 counts for HIV-infected infants at various stages of disease. In turn, this spurred recommendations for prevention of PCP and was used in the development of the first national guidelines for antiretroviral therapy for infants and children with HIV.
  • Stanford University scientists discovered that a protein called calcineurin promotes the development of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas and regulates 10 genes that have been shown to be associated with diabetes. Understanding the role calcineurin plays in diabetes could lead to new treatments and therapies for this disease that today affects more than 20 million adults and children in the United States.
  • Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute solved the three-dimensional structure of the T-cell receptor, a key component of the immune system. Understanding its structure and function may enable scientists to enhance the effectiveness of the immune system through the development of new, highly targeted therapeutics.

In order to maintain this level of excellence and in order to continue to innovate, the report calls on legislators, policy makers and thought leaders to support increased funding for basic research through NIH and other agencies to speed fundamental scientific discovery and broad-based medical innovation. You may obtain your free copy of The National Institutes of Health: Fueling Healthcare Innovation in California by  by calling (858) 551-6677.

CHI represents more than 250 leading biotechnology, medical device, diagnostics, and pharmaceutical companies, and public and private academic biomedical research organizations. CHI™s mission is to advance responsible public policies that foster medical innovation and promote scientific discovery.

The California Healthcare Institute
Nicole Beckstrand, (858) 401-2897
Tiffany Taluban, (858) 551-6677