US spending on biomedical research declines

The United States’ global share of biomedical research spending fell from 51% in 2007 to 45% in 2012. During that time, Japan and China dramatically increased spending, according to a recent report published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

When adjusted for inflation, research and development spending in the US fell from $131 billion to $119 billion, whereas Japan increased spending by $9 billion and China increased spending by $6.4 billion. Asia’s overall share of spending grew from 18% to 24%, while Europe held steady at 29%.

“The United States has long been a world leader in driving research and development in the biomedical sciences,” Reshma Jagsi, MD, DPhil, associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of Michigan Health System, stated in a news release. “It’s important to maintain that leadership role because biomedical research has a number of long-term downstream economic benefits, especially around job creation.”

Study results showed the decline in the US was driven by reduced investment from industry, not the public sector, including support for clinical trials testing potential new therapies. In Asia, fewer regulations and less expense to conduct research, such as lower labor costs, subsidies offered by the government and a less bureaucratic research infrastructure, contributed to the region’s growth in spending, Jagsi suggested.

According to the researchers, increased funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) coupled with incentives to industry for investing in biomedical research and development is critical for the US.

“We were surprised the impact of industry funding was that dramatic, but it’s key to note that government funding is equally important to maintain or grow,” Justin Chakma, BSc, of Thomas, McNerney & Partners in La Jolla, Calif., stated in the release. “Research funded through the National Institutes of Health helps scientists understand how diseases work — this will happen slower as NIH funding continues to be cut.”

For more information:

Chakma J. N Engl J Med.2014;doi: 10.1056/NEJMp1311068.

Disclosure: Jagsi received honoraria as a medical board member from Eviti and is an employee of the University of Michigan. Chakma has no relevant financial disclosures.

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