Statement by Congressman Pallone at the NIH Oversight Hearing

Jun 21, 2012 Issues: Health Care


WASHINGTON DC – Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), Senior Democrat on the Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee, today issued the following statement at an oversight hearing with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
Congressman Pallone called for continued support for NIH, which helps improve the health of Americans and strengthens the U.S. economy through its biomedical research and development.
The following is his statement:
“Thank you Mr. Chairman. As we continue to work our way out of the recession towards a thriving economy that offers economic opportunities to all Americans, we must out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.  NIH is a driving force behind the biomedical research that has advanced, and continues to improve, the health of Americans and strengthened the U.S. economy.
“Thanks, in large part to NIH research, Americans are living longer, living healthier, and suffering less from morbidity and mortality of countless diseases, when compared to the past. Not only has the general health of the nation improved but these gains have added an estimated 3.2 trillion dollars annually to the U.S. economy since 1970.
“NIH funds critical biomedical research in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. NIH remains a leader not only in the American biomedical industry, but also serves as a significant and sustainable part of our economy.
“Let me use New Jersey as an example. New Jersey is home to more than 2,000 biotechnology companies, institutes and research facilities. During fiscal years 2004 to 2009, NIH awarded 198 million dollars to New Jersey biological science companies and venture capital firms and invested an additional 4.1 million dollars in biomedical firms during this period. NIH also spurs innovation: in fiscal year 2011 alone, 28 New Jersey businesses received NIH grants towards R&D of technology with potential commercial applications, and 4.9 million dollars was awarded to train the next generation of scientists.
“In my district alone, nearly 115 million dollars were awarded in grants to research institutes in fiscal year 2011. This helped not only provide jobs, to establish a rich biomedical environment for our current and future workforce, but also helped support the Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository – the largest university-based repository in the world that maintains samples for the study of aging, longevity, substance use and neurological disorders. And the impact of the grants is not limited to universities. Between 2000 and 2010, 37 start-ups were formed based on Rutgers University’s research.
“It’s often that government can support and advance initial research that is then developed by the private sector.  Declining or stagnant federal funding for research and development has an impact on all sectors of our workforce.  It has been estimated that every $1 of NIH funding generates $2.1 in local economic growth. A report from United Medical, released in May, argued that public investment in biomedical research has a dual benefit: by establishing the biomedical foundation upon which industries can build, public funding also has a private rate of return of 30 percent and a public return of at least 37 percent.
“Extensive studies have shown consistently that public investment in health and biomedical research improves health outcomes, alleviates burden of disease, bolsters the infrastructure for our workforce and provides quality jobs in our communities and states.  Again, New Jersey is a perfect example.  New Jersey has been ranked as one of the largest research and development employers in the U.S. with more than 211,000 jobs supported by health R&D, including 50,000 direct jobs in health R&D.  The same report shows the economic impact in New Jersey is $60 billion. Economic research shows that public R&D and private R&D are mutually beneficial, as they complement each other and one cannot be substituted for the other.
“And we do need to be honest: these are difficult economic times, but while our circumstances are mirrored in the international arena, our counterparts in Europe and Asia are steadily increasing their investments for biomedical research despite limited resources because of the long-term impacts on their citizens, health and economy.
“America’s competitiveness and status as a global leader depends on our ability to innovate and support bright, creative minds transforming discoveries into health benefits and a stable future.  The government must be responsible for facilitating an environment where Americans can continue to innovate.  If government abandons its role, we run the real risk of squandering too many opportunities.
“This should serve as an important call to us that only makes our role all the more critical:  are we willing to allow dramatic cuts and decreases in funding to jeopardize our ability to fight cancer, infectious disease, chronic illness and the development of critical components of our workforce and industry? We have a responsibility to the future, now more than ever, by making wise investments that can lead to so many innovative discoveries, the reduction of disease, and so much in direct and cascading economic benefits.  That is the key to creating new thriving industries that will produce millions of good jobs here at home and a better future for the next generation.
“Mr. Chairman:  It’s about priorities. Americans’ quality of life and bolstering our economy should be our top priorities. Government can plant the seeds – often with modest investments relative to the long-term pay-offs in new products, new discoveries, new jobs and economic growth.  Greater funding and support for key agencies, such as NIH, that address both these priorities are ways to keep the United States healthy, strong and competitive is both morally and fiscally imperative to our future. Thank you.”
Ray Zaccaro