Newspaper article Roll Call

NIH: A Treasure Worth Investing in | Commentary

Newspaper article Roll Call

NIH: A Treasure Worth Investing in | Commentary

Article excerpt

By Marc N. Casper, Chris Hansen and Mark S. Wrighton

If you had a treasure map, why wouldn't you follow it?

In essence, this is the opportunity we have before us with the map of the human genome. The Human Genome Project cracked our life code and provides a massive treasure trove of information that we have only just begun to explore.

Yet in the 12 years since the effort produced the map of the human genome, the National Institutes of Health's budget has been flat, slowing progress in all areas of medicine. So, while the NIH was handed a pathway to countless new medical opportunities in 2003, it has been hamstrung by a diminishing ability to fund the research to pursue these new cures and treatments.

As leaders of organizations that work every day to enable science, understand disease, discover treatments and deliver them to patients, it has been frustrating to see progress delayed by underfunding of the NIH.

Policymakers on both sides of the aisle understand that the NIH enables cures and treatments for disease while affording the United States a tremendous return on our investment.

The Human Genome Project is an example of this return on investment. Beyond the transformational impact it has on lives and on further advances in medical science, that effort also has yielded nearly $1 trillion in economic activity. Every dollar of the $3.8 billion invested by the federal government has so far returned $178.

Many scientists and biotech companies are proud to have played key roles in the effort to crack the human genome and to build on the discoveries that have flowed from it. But to develop new cures and treatments, we need to make funding the NIH a priority in the federal budget.

Putting together that budget is difficult. Congress faces tough choices, and the demands are endless. National security. Health care. Social Security. Interest payments on the debt. Add spending caps and sequestration to the equation and the task has turned nearly impossible.

This is why, for so long, despite acknowledging the need to increase the NIH's budget, Congress has only held the agency's budget flat. …

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