NIH Chief Stresses Economic Impact of Federal Biomedical Funding

2/22/10Follow @bvbigelow

Cancer and certain types of mental illness are diseases that appear ripe for research breakthroughs, according to Francis Collins, who just marked his sixth month as director of the National Institutes of Health.

“I’m always loath to say what’s on the brink of some big breakthrough,” says Collins, who met with local reporters while attending the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science—which is in San Diego for the first time since the AAAS was founded in 1848. Yet Collins, who previously led the Human Genome Project, says advances in genomics and the power of genetic sequencing technologies are opening the possibility of new therapies in cancer, as well as for schizophrenia, autism, and bipolar disorders—diseases with strong genetic components.

“I would hope in another five years that we would have the capability to have the genome of your tumor completely analyzed—and then go through the list of drugs that are available” to determine which anti-tumor drug would be most effective. Collins says using genomics to assess how genetic variations affect each patient’s individual response to different drugs is an example of the growing field of pharmacogenomics, and represents another aspect of the revolution that’s underway.

Collins says cancer is a disease of the genome, and federal funding for biomedical research is not only advancing on a cure but also helping to sustain the nation’s economic recovery. Of $10 billion in stimulus funding to be spent over two years on biomedical research, Collins says about $4.5 billion has been allocated throughout the country so far.

Some additional details, courtesy of the NIH director:

—Of the $4.5 billion in current economic recovery and stimulus funding, the NIH directed $126 million to researchers in San Diego County. Including the stimulus funding, the NIH provided about $920 million in funding for biomedical research in San Diego County during the current fiscal year. NIH grants are supporting 1,180 scientists at 92 organizations throughout the county. “San Diego is famous for being on the high end of innovation, both at the academic centers and at the research institutes,” Collins says.

—The NIH also has created a pilot that uses federal stimulus funding to … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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