Commentary: U.S. must recommit to funding medical research

The following commentary was published by The Detroit News on Feb. 22, 2012.  The author, Dr. Gilbert S. Omenn, is a past CEO of the University of Michigan Health System.

 

By Gilbert S. Omenn

Our nation's fiscal situation and the failure of the Congressional Budget Super Committee last year could trigger across-the-board multi-billion-dollar cuts to medical research nationally and right here in Michigan.

This threat to a burgeoning sector of our state economy could not come at a worse time.

What's even more troubling about these cuts is that they threaten an area of public spending that is almost universally popular. Polls by Research!America, a nonprofit advocacy group, show overwhelming public support for investments in basic, clinical and population research to make a difference in medical care and public health.

Our elected officials need to hear from the public on such priorities. They need to appreciate that research generates advances only when funding is sustained or grown, allowing scientists to take advantage of new technologies and new leads. This past year, despite budget stress, Congress did sustain bipartisan support for research. And President Barack Obama's FY2013 budget request, issued this past week, seeks healthy increases for physical sciences but provides no increase for the National Institutes of Health. He seems to have left that task to the Congress and the public.

Michigan is one of the most prominent states for biomedical research, with cutting-edge work at the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, the Karmanos Cancer Institute, Henry Ford Health System, Michigan State University, Van Andel Institute and other institutions.

 

 

The following commentary was published by The Detroit News on Feb. 22, 2012.  The author, Dr. Gilbert S. Omenn, is a past CEO of the University of Michigan Health System.

 

By Gilbert S. Omenn

 

Our nation's fiscal situation and the failure of the Congressional Budget Super Committee last year could trigger across-the-board multi-billion-dollar cuts to medical research nationally and right here in Michigan.

This threat to a burgeoning sector of our state economy could not come at a worse time.

What's even more troubling about these cuts is that they threaten an area of public spending that is almost universally popular. Polls by Research!America, a nonprofit advocacy group, show overwhelming public support for investments in basic, clinical and population research to make a difference in medical care and public health.

Our elected officials need to hear from the public on such priorities. They need to appreciate that research generates advances only when funding is sustained or grown, allowing scientists to take advantage of new technologies and new leads. This past year, despite budget stress, Congress did sustain bipartisan support for research. And President Barack Obama's FY2013 budget request, issued this past week, seeks healthy increases for physical sciences but provides no increase for the National Institutes of Health. He seems to have left that task to the Congress and the public.

Michigan is one of the most prominent states for biomedical research, with cutting-edge work at the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, the Karmanos Cancer Institute, Henry Ford Health System, Michigan State University, Van Andel Institute and other institutions.

Such research depends largely on federal funding from NIH. In 2011, NIH provided $655 million for research at colleges, universities, medical centers, and small businesses in Michigan, corresponding to 13,000 good jobs. Scientists at my own institution, the U-M Health System, garnered $320 million of that total.

 

Innovative research will accelerate efforts to find treatments and cures for cancers, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, and other life-threatening illnesses. Investments in medical research are a powerful economic driver, as our state recognized with its Life Sciences Corridor and 21st Century Fund in recent years.

The American traits of discovery and innovation lead to new jobs and whole new American industries like biotech, while keeping our nation globally competitive. Of course, there are major new competitors like China, India and Brazil.

Unfortunately, research has been largely overlooked during the presidential campaign and especially in the televised debates to date. This is surprising and disappointing, given that biomedical research is critical to lowering the cost of health care, bringing life-saving treatments to patients who cannot afford to wait and reinvigorating the economy.

More about the candidates' interest and positions is available at www.yourcandidatesyourhealth.org, a site maintained by Research!America, and on the website of the American Association for the Advancement of Science at http://elections.aaas.org/2012/comparisons. We should all call upon the candidates to make a firm commitment to strengthen investment in health research and other research sectors.

Research has been a powerful force for progress in this country for many decades, including vaccines, drugs, medical devices and health promotion/disease prevention. We must ensure that basic and clinical research remains a national priority even in tough fiscal times. Our health and our economy depend on public demand for such critical investments.

Gilbert S. Omenn, M.D., PhD, is a Professor of Internal Medicine, Human Genetics, Public Health, and Computational Medicine at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He was CEO of the University of Michigan Health System and president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

 

 

 


Help Us Make A Difference. Make A Donation That Could Save Lives.

Make A Gift

Connect/
Share/
follow/

Follow Us / Friend Us

Discovery-driven research that matters

phallodin

Taubman Scholar Dr. Charles Burant tests promising diabetes drug

TAK-875, a new treatment for type 2 diabetes, improves blood sugar control and is equally effective as glimepiride, but has a significantly lower risk of creating a dangerous drop in blood sugar, called hypoglycemia, according to a new study.

Read more

Taubman Institute leaders make the case for more doctor-scientist funding

 

The prestigious "Academic Medicine" journal has just published a new article authored by Taubman Institute senior management and Detroit-area attorney Scott Roberts.

The article explores the problematic gap between bench research and clinical application of new treatments or cures. 

Read more


Help Us Make A Difference. Make A Gift.

Leaders from the realms of business, academia and the community help to refine the Taubman Institute's vision, to monitor progress and to provide support, advice and counsel.

Meet the Leadership Advisory Board

Meet the Scientific Advisory Board

About Taubman Institute Video

In this video feature, Taubman Scholars explain why funding for high-risk research is so important to their work and to the discovery of promising cures and treatments.  

 

Stem cell surgery targets ALS Video

Patients glean hope from trial’s progress but wish it were faster

 

video-emerging-scholars-programDonors pitch in to keep brilliant science minds at U-M Video

Emerging Scholars program connects promising M.D.-researchers with philanthropists