Medical Research: Ohio’s Key to Healthy People and a Healthy Economy

Walter E. Horton Jr., Ph.D.

This article appeared in the March/April edition of Ohio Matters, the official publication of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

As Ohio’s leading sector, the biomedical industry plays an important role in the state’s economy, and the resources to support the research being done by colleges, universities and industries to advance societal health must continue to expand.

From protecting us against mosquito-borne pathogens such as the Zika virus or food-borne pathogens such as E. coli O26, Salmonella and Listeria, we constantly need new methods of detection, prevention and treatment, all of which are made possible by the research conducted by dedicated biomedical scientists, research that costs money as it saves lives.

The past year alone saw outbreaks of the three major food pathogens, outbreaks that infected several dozen people. In a coincidence, each of those outbreaks had some connection to people or places in Ohio.

Ohio is also not isolated from the national trends of increased incidence of chronic disease, a result of the combined effects of lifestyle and an aging population. Nearly 60 percent of Ohioans reported having at least one of the following 10 chronic diseases or clinical risk factors — arthritis, asthma, cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and stroke1. Chronic diseases shorten lives, reduce the quality of life and result in numerous poor health outcomes, increased health care needs and higher medical costs.

Although great work is being conducted to detect, prevent and treat cardiovascular disease, minimize the impact of arthritis and find new and innovative approaches to treating neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, advancing science through research in these areas can be very expensive.

But disease is far more expensive, as medical costs associated with chronic diseases cost Ohioans more than $25 billion each year. Medical research is the key to healthy people and a healthy economy. 

A Team Sport

Increasingly, medical research is a team sport succeeding through important relationships between industry and academia.

A report prepared for the Biotechnology Industry Organization by the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice, “Advancing Translational Research for Biomedical Innovation: Measuring Industry-Academic Connections,” found that one in eight industry-sponsored clinical trials has an academic institution as a cosponsor or collaborator. The report also noted an increase in multi-institutional/multicompany collaborations.2

There are also several organizations that serve as advocates for the biomedical research industry. Of particular note is Research!America (R!A). As the nation’s largest not-for-profit public education and advocacy alliance, R!A is committed to making research to improve health a higher national priority. R!A has more than 350 member organizations that span the research spectrum from the lab bench to the bedside.

Ohio has the uniqueness of being a health care epicenter that is also trending higher in disease and chronic conditions, but that trend is reversible. The state has come into its own as an incubator of innovation while embracing its manufacturing roots. Ohio’s biomedical sector is thriving in basic, applied and translational research, and the colleges, universities and industries are necessarily interdependent. The diverse group of industries and the equally diverse work in medical research that benefits drug development, device manufacturing, biological, behavioral and genetic science, and new procedures and processes for practitioners often go unseen. But it is there, happening every day across the state.

Ohio’s colleges and universities have become increasingly collaborative with hospitals and industry, preparing future health care professionals as practitioners in team-based care. As a result, workforce development is thriving in Ohio, with health care accounting for nearly 1.3 million jobs in the state — more than any other industry. As total compensation for these health care jobs exceeds $60 billion annually in Ohio, many see this front facing aspect of health care and the direct benefits to Ohio’s economy. This positions Ohio well to deliver the outcomes of medical research to the people of the state.3

Ohio is currently among the top tier of states in key measures of bioscience R&D and innovation, including academic R&D, NIH research funding and patenting, with the state’s research universities obtaining $1 billion in funding each year.2

Such funding not only directly supports colleges and universities in advancing science and educating our future health care professionals, scientists and scholars, it also supports the biomedical research industry, producing jobs for many within the supply chain.

Ohio’s current economy, its future economy and the health and wellbeing of its citizens are increasingly dependent on medical research, and the threat of reduced federal funding, particularly with the NIH, threatens our thriving economy. This is not only true in Ohio, but across the nation.

Let's Talk About It

Join us June 6, 2016, as Research!America convenes nearly a dozen university presidents across Ohio, C-level execs from leading biotech companies, research scientists, public officials, experts in health care and executives from nationally ranked hospitals at a forum hosted at Northeast Ohio Medical University. Titled “Medical Research, the Right Prescription for Economic Growth,” the forum aims to increase advocacy for biomedical research while producing discourse and ideation that engages all for more public-private collaboration and sourcing of funds to maximize the impact of medical research on Ohio’s economy and the health of its citizens.

During the event, Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley will share and discuss the results of a poll commissioned by the nonprofit organization to gain insight from Ohioans regarding their perceptions and knowledge of impact biomedical research on Ohio’s economy. A full release of the poll results will be made available the day after the event ends.

Click here for more information on the forum “Medical Research, the Right Prescription for Economic Growth” on June 6.

Walter E. Horton Jr., Ph.D., is the Vice President for Research, Dean, College of Graduate Studies, Professor, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Northeast Ohio Medical University.


1. The Impact of Chronic Disease in Ohio: 2015. Chronic Disease Epidemiology and Evaluation Section, Bureau of Health Promotion, Ohio Department of Health, 2015. media/HealthyOhio/ASSETS/Files/Chronic%20Disease%20Plan/ CD%20Burden%20Final_Webv2.pdf

2. Advancing Translational Research for Biomedical Innovation: Measuring Industry-Academic Connections. Biotechnology Industry Organization, Battelle Technology Partnership Practice, 2015. https://

3. The Economic Impact of Hospitals in Ohio, April 2015. Ohio Hospital Association, 2015. News%20and%20Publications/Reports/Economic-Impact-ReportHospitals-Version-FINAL.pdf

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