Each year the federal government, through the National Institutes
of Health, awards about $10 billion in research grants to the
biomedical research efforts in colleges, universities and not-for-
profit research foundations.
Based on Oklahoma's population, we should be receiving about $100
million in NIH grants each year. Currently, we receive only $31
million, the bulk of which goes to the University of Oklahoma Health
Sciences Center and the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. This
represents only about 24 percent of our "fair share."
Our neighboring states, for example, Texas (67 percent) and
Colorado (120 percent) do substantially better.
Unfortunately, Oklahoma is not experiencing any growth in this
area; in fact, we are going in the wrong direction. In 1993, we
ranked 40th in the nation in NIH per capita funding. In 1997, we
dropped a notch to 41. Growth occurred in other neighboring states
-- Missouri from 14th to 12th; New Mexico from 27th to 26th -- while
others stayed at the same ranking (except Texas, which dropped from
24th to 25th).
Other states with less per capita funding than Oklahoma have
substantially lower populations (Alaska, Arkansas, Mississippi,
Nevada, South and North Dakota, Wyoming). But population in itself
is not really a factor. For example, my home state of Vermont, with
only 588,000 people, ranks 13th in per capita funding, at $44.64 per
person, or nearly five times as much as Oklahoma, with a population
of three million!
Biomedical research -- of which the intellectual property
(discoveries) of scientists is translated into biotechnology -- is
spawning the greatest industry growth in the nation. In 1995, the
net value of the biotechnology industry was $52 billion; in 1996, it
had more than doubled, to $103 billion. It is predicted that by
2015, U.S. biotechnology will be a $600 billion industry. An
incredible 70 percent of industrial research and development funding
in this industry goes toward health.
Biomedical research is one area in which Oklahoma has a chance to
achieve national and international prominence -- but only if we can
sustain the momentum generated over the past decade. While I have
been in Oklahoma a little more than a year, I believe it is
appropriate to state clearly and unequivocally that Oklahoma should
set the goal of achieving $100 million in NIH grants within five
years (our "fair share").
Why are these research dollars so important to our state? First
and foremost, the public is interested in medical research. In fact,
according to a recent opinion poll taken by Research!America, they
are overwhelmingly in favor of both state and federal funds being
used to support biomedical research, and recognize that Oklahoma
needs to be a leader in this area.
Next, biomedical research is an enormous engine that can fuel
Oklahoma's economy, which relied for most of its history on the oil
business. Research dollars that come into Oklahoma provide high-
quality, better-than-average pay for our citizens, and will lay the
foundation for jobs in the future for our sons and daughters.
Of course, research dollars boost the economy in other ways as
well. People with jobs buy houses, furniture, clothing, groceries
and services. They go to the movies, ballgames and museums. The
taxes they pay provide for better schools and more highly trained
teachers, roads, libraries, and cultural opportunities. It would
clearly be a boon to business -- all Oklahoma business.
But equally as important, Oklahoma -- with a vigorous economy, a
highly educated and/or skilled population, and a more prominent
national profile, will be a place in which Oklahomans can take
particular pride, because we have accomplished it ourselves -- we
the masters of our future.
We will need to put in place all the efforts necessary to bring
Okahoma its fair share of research dollars. …