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Op-Ed: Increased NIH Investment Provides Returns for Every American

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U.S. must maintain global leadership in science, technology, and medicine

Discovery and innovation are sewn into our nation’s fabric. Many of humanity’s greatest accomplishments of the past century were conceived by Americans and supported by government and private-sector investment in the United States. 

In the realm of health and well-being, our most prolific federal accelerator of lifesaving discovery has been the National Institutes of Health. For more than 130 years, it has been America’s most vital government-funded research treasure. From fighting cancer to understanding Alzheimer’s to treating children with rare diseases, NIH has helped save countless lives in the United States and around the world. Its reach and research have eliminated untold human suffering.  

NIH, which funds research in every state across our nation, is an emblem of American leadership, a testament to the power of priorities that endure regardless of which political party holds power, and an icon of innovation and excellence in the world of medicine. Investing robustly in NIH will ensure that this work continues unabated. Building on NIH’s legacy rather than eroding its funding capacity will enable America to continue to lead life-saving medical exploration and illuminate new pathways of discovery.  

With Washington’s latest budget battle behind us, we must redouble our efforts to ensure that consistent and robust growth of NIH funding provides the path to a healthier and more prosperous American future. NIH produces an astounding return on investment to the American taxpayer. In Fiscal Year 2022, NIH research funding supported 568,585 jobs and generated $96.84 billion in economic activity — that’s $2.64 of economic activity for every $1 of research funding.  

In 2022, more than 84% of the agency’s budget was directed to researchers outside the federal government. NIH awarded nearly 50,000 grants to 300,000 scientists at 2,500 institutions, including awards in every state and nearly every congressional district. From testing new cancer therapies in Alabama to studying treatments for childhood asthma in rural Iowa to funding small business innovators looking at ways to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, NIH research touches every corner of our nation. 

With many grants led by early-career scientists, this funding is also a critical tool for training the next generation of researchers. NIH is teaching the scientists who will make tomorrow’s exciting breakthroughs and keep America on track to compete globally. Investing in NIH is a genuine investment in our workforce and our future.  

NIH’s track record is also impressive. Past NIH grantees have made significant progress in combatting diseases ranging from arthritis and cancer to heart disease and depression. Support from NIH helped to create a precision cancer treatment for patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia. NIH also played a significant role in developing deep brain stimulation, a life-changing therapy for people with Parkinson’s disease. NIH-supported research on substance use led to the development of buprenorphine, a treatment for opioid addiction, and naloxone nasal spray, which can reverse overdoses. The work of NIH-funded research is saving lives in real time. 

Sustained NIH investments are necessary to keep the U.S. competitive globally at a time when our research supremacy is being tested. We cannot afford to cede more ground to China and other countries that are positioning themselves to become global R&D leaders.  

Americans agree: 85% of respondents in a survey commissioned by Research!America said it is important for Congress and the president to assign a high priority to faster medical progress. A related survey found 63% of Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes if the funds were spent on medical and health research. And more than 9 in 10 think it’s important for America to be a global leader in science and technology, with almost 80% expressing concern China will soon overtake the U.S. The concern has merit: the National Science Board projects China will spend $200 billion more on research and development than the United States by 2030.  

America must maintain its competitive edge in the global marketplace. The dollars dedicated each year to NIH provide the fuel for advancements in medicine that benefit millions of people. Furthermore, sustained funding ensures the ability to train new scientists, invigorate life-saving research, and profoundly impact the lives of the American public.  

Investing in NIH puts our people on the path to longer, healthier lives. It shores up our nation’s ability to compete and thrive in a competitive global economy.  

A robust NIH is good for America — and is an investment in American lives

This op-ed is endorsed by:  

  • Jed Manocherian
    Founder & Chairman
    ACT for NIH
  • David J. Skorton, MD
    President & CEO
    Association of American Medical Colleges
  • Dr. Karen. E. Knudsen
    American Cancer Society & ACS CAN
  • Lynn Marquis
    Executive Director
    Coalition for the Life Sciences
  • Ellen V. Sigal, PhD
    Chair & Founder
    Friends of Cancer Research
  • Mary Woolley
    President & CEO
  • George Vradenburg
    Executive Chairman & Co-Founder

This campaign is financially supported by: Act for NIH, Association of American Medical Colleges, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Coalition for the Life Science, Friend of Cancer Research, Research!America, and UsAgainstAlzheimer’s.