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The Boons of an NIH Boost

President Obama’s budget request for fiscal year 2011 would direct $32.2 billion to the National Institutes of Health. That’s a boost of about 3.2 percent over the baseline budget from the previous year, and last week a coalition of 25 governors from across the country sent a letter to congressional representatives explaining the benefits of the investment and urging that they incorporate it into the final budget due later this fall.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act directed an additional one-time stimulus of $10 billion to NIH last year, a sum that helped offset the flat funding for the agency from 2004 to 2008. But “flat” actually meant that the NIH saw the purchasing power of its inflation-adjust budget dip 13 percent over that period.

In the letter, the governors point out that their states received $19 billion in grants from NIH last year, and funding from the agency directly supports 350,000 jobs around the country.

But most importantly, the governors write that the “greatest contribution NIH makes is to the health and well-being of Americans.” The agency funds research on everything from vaccines to cancer therapies—from investigations into the genetic roots of disease to the traumatic brain injuries suffered by U.S. combat troops.

Shortly after the White House released its budget request in February, leaders of United for Medical Research, a coalition of research universities and advocacy groups, explained here at Science Progress that every $1 of NIH investment produces more than $2 of economic benefits. Moreover, they described how the basic biomedical research NIH supports leads to innovations that drive leading U.S. industries: 50 percent of respondents in a recent biotech industry poll reported that their companies were founded on licensed ideas generated by these technologies.

In short, an investment in NIH is an investment in the health, wealth, and security of the whole nation.

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