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to recruit top scientists like Dr. Pan, constructing world-class laboratory infrastructure, and winning industry R&D dollars with tax subsidies and grants. These initiatives in biomedical research parallel prior efforts in the clean energy, where China has outspent the U.S. by almost 2-to-1 in absolute terms, and established itself as the leading market globally. In its most recent Five Year Plan, the Chinese government committed $308 billion across seven scientific areas, including biotechnology.
Congress needs to increase funding of the NIH, if not for the advancement of medicine, then for economic self-preservation. Specifically, NIH funding needs to be directed towards translational research to reduce the number of clinical failures by improving our fundamental understanding of disease origin and progression, by supporting industrywide initiatives such as identifying better markers of disease progression, and by co-sponsoring early “proof of concept” trials with industry, as well as conducting the longitudinal studies required in diseases such as Alzheimer’s, where so many drugs have failed.
These funding plans need to be long term, at least five years in length. The long development times of both new medicines and new scientists have made the U.S. complacent about changes that will not be apparent for another five to 10 years, but will be difficult to reverse.
The decline in both academic and industry research investment in the United States is especially discouraging because other mature economies such as Japan and Europe have maintained their investment in biomedical R&D. Simply put, the US has abdicated its global leadership in biomedical research, and must respond now if it wants to reverse the course.
Justin Chakma is an investor at Thomas, McNerney & Partners. Dr. Reshma Jagsi is a physician-scientist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Stephen M. Sammut is a senior fellow at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
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