US Biomedical Research Funding Trends

Very briefly, since I need to get to bed for eye surgery tomorrow (this morning, actually), JAMA today published a report on the Funding of US Biomedical Research, 2003-2008. Bottom line: we’re not imagining declines on every front.

The results as summarized in the abstract:

Biomedical research funding increased from $75.5 billion in 2003 to $101.1 billion in 2007. In 2008, funding from the National Institutes of Health and industry totaled $88.8 billion. In 2007, funding from these sources, adjusted for inflation, was $90.2 billion. Adjusted for inflation, funding from 2003 to 2007 increased by 14%, for a compound annual growth rate of 3.4%. By comparison, funding from 1994 to 2003 increased at an annual rate of 7.8% (P < .001). In 2007, industry (58%) was the largest funder, followed by the federal government (33%). Modest increase in funding was not accompanied by an increase in approvals for drugs or devices. In 2007, the United States spent an estimated 4.5% of its total health expenditures on biomedical research and 0.1% on health services research.

After a decade of doubling, the rate of increase in biomedical research funding slowed from 2003 to 2007, and after adjustment for inflation, the absolute level of funding from the National Institutes of Health and industry appears to have decreased by 2% in 2008.

Industry may still be the biggest funder of biomedical research in the US, but separately, although focused on COI issues, Nature Biotechnology flagged a report citing declining industry support for academic researchers.

The JAMA authors (Dorsey et al.) begin their comments by observing that:

While the decrease has occurred at a time of intense economic instability and financial upheaval in the world’s financial markets, the rate diminished even before the events of 2007-2008. Funding from the NIH and industry, which includes pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device firms, slowed from 2003 to 2007 and, after adjusting for inflation, has decreased in 2008.

Oof. The accompanying JAMA editorial by Thomas Boat notes the obvious:

The data … make a strong case for more consistent, coordinated, data-driven, and sustainable decisions regarding biomedical research funding.

Boat also points out that institutions are not making up the difference in hard money:

… all-source (extramural) funding of biomedical research increased 14% during 2003-2007, while total research expenditures by colleges and universities expanded at half that rate (7.4%). These rates suggest that intramural [institutional] funding of research in academic settings fell behind in the mid 2000s, a situation that does not bode well for the vibrancy of academic research programs.

Amen Brother Thomas.



  1. BB said

    Wishing you the speediest of recoveries.

  2. D said

    One of these days I am going to have to suck it up and read some articles about the economics of Higher Education. I just can’t figure out what schools spend their money on.

  3. D said

    PS. Best Wishes for a speedy recovery!

  4. Neuro-conservative said

    Hope things went well with the surgery — get well soon!

  5. Good luck with the surgery!

    You might be interested in the work that Research!America (my organization) is doing on health research funding. The authors’ findings reinforce our annual U.S. Investment in Health Research report, which shows us that we are headed in the wrong direction. Research!America has been tracking and analyzing the various streams of funding that make up the total U.S. investment in health research for a decade. Our most recent report estimates $131 billion was spent on research to improve health in 2008, just 5.5% of our nation’s total health spending.

  6. writedit said

    Thanks all for the thoughtful wishes … surgery went well, eye healing fine, vision looking good!

  7. […] line: we’re not imagining declines on every front,” says Writedit at Medical Writing, Editing & Grantsmanship. An article […]

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