Many members of Congress see the potential of an increased investment in the NIH as part of the solution to our ailing economy. We prostate cancer survivors can glean additional benefits from an increase to NIH funding, in our fight against this terrible disease.

The belief that making an increased economic investment in research through the NIH would be good for the economy was highlighted during a hearing of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, entitled “Treatments for an Ailing Economy: Protecting Health Care Coverage and Investing in Biomedical Research.” Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) of the Health Subcommittee convened a witness panel who mostly encouraged lawmakers to include funds for Medicaid and the NIH in the stimulus package.

Pallone in his opening remark of the committee meeting stated that a boost in NIH funding would provide “real, direct economic benefits at the local level including increased employment, growth opportunities for universities, medical centers, local companies, and additional economic stimulus for the community.”

Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-MI), the chairman of the full congressional committee put on the record a prepared statement that called attention to the last five years of inadequate federal funding for the NIH and the harmful effects that have spread beyond the biomedical research community. “In addition to stifling scientific progress, these funding cuts have a negative economic impact on communities across the country.” The Chairman went on to explain that “the federal dollars that NIH sends out into communities provide direct economic benefits at the local level.”

The acting Director Dr. Raynard Kington of the NIH made the made a very strong argument that the biotechnology industry has served as a major, long-term driver of the U.S. economy. According to Dr. Kington’s testimony the NIH has served as an engine of innovation that has led to business growth and job creation. He estimated that on the average each NIH grant creates or supports seven jobs, which this year alone has created 300,000 new jobs across the country. Additionally, he wet on to testify that the strain created by the stagnant funding has placed handicapped the agency’s potential to advance scientific breakthroughs and the ability of the agency to support the careers of younger researchers who are critical to the long-term viability of the research enterprise.

Mr. Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA, cited the report released by his organization: In Your Own Backyard: How NIH Funding Helps Your State’s Economy, as further evidence of the economic benefit that NIH funding brings to states and communities. Rachel King, CEO of the biotech firm Glycomimetics, testified on behalf of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and also made a strong case for including NIH funding in a stimulus package.

There was some opposition to this premise that increased funding to the NIH serves as an economic stimulus. Mr. Raymond Pinard, representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce testified that directing incentives toward the private sector would be a more effective means to stimulate job growth. Alan Viard of the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) cast doubt on the need for a stimulus plan at all.

Overall, however, the general sentiment favored a stimulus plan that included funding for the NIH.

Webcast and Witness Testimony

Statement of Committee Chairman John Dingell

AACR Fact Sheet on the Economic Value of Cancer Research

Joel T Nowak MA MSW