Over the past five years, countries other than the United States are showing that they are increasingly willing to put money where their mouth is with regard to supporting biomedical research.
According to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine the proportion that the United States is spending on biomedical research compared with the rest of the world fell from 51 percent in 2007 to 45 percent in 2012. The United States ponied up $131 billion dollars in 2007, which is 10 percent more than the $119 billion it spent on research and development in 2012 (adjusting for inflation).
Over these five years, Japan has upped its funding for research by $9 billion while China increased spending by $6.4 billion, according to the analysis, which was a collaboration between medical researchers and economists.
"The United States has long been a world leader in driving research and development in the biomedical science. It's important to maintain that leadership role because biomedical research has a number of long term downstream economic benefits, especially around job creation," study author Reshma Jagsi, associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of Michigan Health System, explained in a statement. The study noted that the United States at one time spent as much as 80 percent of all funding going into research.
Interestingly, the researchers found that this decline in spending in the United States mostly stems from the private sector not investing as much. This is despite the budget sequestration, which imposed cuts on several federal research grants and threatened the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) ability to finance approximately a fourth of all biomedical research in the nation.
Jagsi explained that this shift in private sector spending in the U.S. in comparison with other countries might reflect differences in regulatory policy and overall cost in conducting biomedical research, such as conducting clinical trials for novel therapies.
“We were surprised the impact of industry funding was that dramatic, but it's key to note that government funding is equally important to maintain or grow. Research funded through the National Institutes of Health helps scientists understand how diseases work — this will happen slower as NIH funding continues to be cut," explained study author Justin Chakma, a venture capital investor with Thomas, McNerney & Partners in La Jolla, Calif.
According to a 2012 article in NEJM, NIH’s budget for fiscal year 2013 was proposed to remain at 2012 levels, “continuing a decade-long failure to keep pace with the rising costs of conducting medical research.”
“As compared with the United States,” the authors continued, “China, India, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore have taken sharply different views of medical research and have developed policies that foster medical research as an engine for economic growth and intellectual innovation.”