Dear M.I.N.G. Nation:
Recently, one of our members, Colin, came across an article about funding the NIH. More specifically, the grants that the NIH gives out. You can find that article here. I highly recommend giving the entire thing a read. As a quick summary, the article’s authors took a look at nearly all of the grants that the NIH had given out from 1980-2007 (over 365,000!). They found that either directly or indirectly, 31% of the NIH grants contribute in some shape or form to a private enterprises’ patent. In other words, either A) The grant product, be it a new method, drug, etc. was directly patented, or B) The grant product was instrumental in helping to develop another discovery that was then patented.1
Who cares about grants?
Some of you may be asking why this is important. Recently, our President has proposed a funding cut to the NIH. The funding cut, if it comes to be a reality or not, is up to the Congressionally passed budget. And in reality, both sides of the aisle support the NIH. But let’s say we come across the worst-case scenario, and the NIH receives the proposed 20% budget cut. The easiest way for the NIH to meet those budget cuts without hampering ongoing projects is to reduce the number or amount of grants that they give out. This could end up having a devastating impact on the biomedical innovations that our country produces. Grants the NIH gives out are not for things like the next hair regrowth treatment for balding men, or a pill for the lazy to take so they don’t have to exercise and can still lose weight. NIH grants are highly competitive and for the most part are geared toward funding cures/treatments for things like AIDS, EBOLA, Diabetes, the common flu, etc. These are causes that are not only public health concerns but are diseases that cause countless missed hours of work for American companies.
What about big pharmaceutical companies?
Some of you may ask “What about ‘Big Pharma’ and all those companies that make the pills we take now?” Well, to put it bluntly, they are for-profit businesses, plain and simple. Due to the analytics they use, they have decided that it is not worth it for them to invest in cures. Think about it. A single person taking $10 worth of pills every day to control the symptoms is worth more than a cure, even at $10,000 ($10/day for 30 years is $109,500!)
The authors go on to estimate that for every $1 that the government invests in the private sector, it generates $1.50 to $2 for the private sector in terms of sales of the patented products. 55% of the NIH budget of $31.3 billion is estimated to have gone towards grants in FY2016. That’s $17.2 billion, and a return on investment of $25.8 billion, assuming a $1.50 return. 2
What are the alternatives?
So what can you do?
First and foremost, contact your Representative and Senators, whom you can find here. Tell them about the importance of continuing the NIH funding at current levels. If they ask for more details, feel free to send them my op-ed and the original article!
We can also use social media to get the word out to places like the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The CEPI provides funding for biomedical research to try and prepare the human race for an epidemic and be one step ahead of emerging diseases.
There are countless other private companies, foundations and funds out there that invest money into biomedical research. Consider making a donation to one of them, and your money will go towards a great cause.