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Medical Research: The Right Prescription for Economic Growth

Elected officials, business leaders, university presidents from across the state, leaders of biotech companies and nationally-ranked medical centers, and research scientists came together to discuss public-private partnerships and other initiatives that maximize the impact of medical research on the local and national economy, and benefit the health of citizens. Research!America and Northeast Ohio Medical University co-hosted the forum, “Medical Research: The Right Prescription for Economic Growth,” at the NEOMED Education and Wellness Center in Rootstown, Ohio on June 6.

“Federal investment in R&D, especially basic research, is critical to success, and is a good thing for our economy,” said Congressman David Joyce (R-OH-14) who joined other members of the Ohio congressional delegation at the event.

Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH- 13) said investments in federal agencies like the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health must be a priority “if we are going to unleash the massive potential we have in our research communities.” Collaboration is important as well and research facilities such as NEOMED bring the community together, shared Congressman Jim Renacci (R-OH-16).

Research!America president and CEO Mary Woolley discussed the importance of research to economic health and wellbeing, and presented public opinion survey data illustrating Ohioans’ views on medical and health research. An overwhelming majority of Ohio residents say it is important for the state to be a leader in education (89%) and in medical and health research (87%).

“It’s unusual to see such a high percentage” for various enterprises including agriculture, science and technology and manufacturing noted Woolley. Seventy-eight percent of respondents say that Ohio’s universities create a stronger economy by developing the skilled workforce that allows companies to compete in the global economy, and 73% say that Ohio’s universities are among the best research universities in the nation.

The panel was moderated by Susan Dentzer, president and CEO, The Network for Excellence in Health Innovation. Dentzer asked panelists to discuss what they feel is the next important step to take to ensure that biomedical research is able to advance and help grow the economy, in both Ohio and nationally.

Funding across the research community was a top-line issue for each panelist. Michael Drake, president, Ohio State University, emphasized the importance of empowering students and early career scientists. If universities are funded, he said, students will be able to pursue their passion for research.

“If we invest more, we get more,” said Walter Koroshetz, director, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. But without that investment countries like China will move ahead of the U.S. as a leader in biomedical research. “We’re in a critical period of time where there’s excitement, but the resources have not been there,” added Koroshetz.

Smarter investments, said Sudip Parikh, CP and GM of Health & Analytics, Battelle, should consider the full continuum of research, from basic research to health care delivery. Public-private partnerships, Parikh added, are also important to spurring medical research and development.

Panelists stressed that investments in prevention and behavioral research is necessary to move a patient-centered health care model forward. “A big part of what we need to work on is the behavioral aspects of delivery and wellness,” said Joe Kanfer, chairman and CEP, GOJO Industries.

Thomas Zenty, CEO, University Hospitals said advancing research and health care in the U.S. must start with a wellness model of health care. “We need to focus on prevention, intervention and long term care for a person’s lifespan, not just the moment they (develop) a problem,” he added.

Drug and substance abuse is considered to be the most important health issue facing Ohio residents, according to Research!America’s survey data. Lucinda Maine, EVP and CEO of American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, emphasized that behavioral research will play a key role in meeting the challenge of addressing opioid abuse in the U.S.

Panelists agreed that progress starts with a commitment from the entire community– federal, state, universities, foundations and industry– to understanding the importance of advancing biomedical research from a health and economic standpoint, and the need for additional resources to combat health threats.

Watch the live stream or visit our Flickr page to see a photo gallery of the forum.