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Investment in biomedical and health research falls 3%

Biomedical and health research and development (R&D) spending from all sources in the US declined by more than $4 billion, or 3 per cent, between fiscal years 2010 and 2011, according to data released on 25 October.

The findings represent the first drop in overall spending in this area since 2002, when Research!America began compiling such data.

The decline follows a significant upturn in research funding attributed to the economic stimulus package enacted by President Obama in 2009, which allocated more than $10bn to the National Institutes of Health over two years.

“The overall downward trend in R&D spending is coming at a time when other nations are ramping up their own investments in research,” Research!America said.

The group noted that across-the-board budget cuts from the “sequestration” that is slated to begin in January could reduce federal biomedical and health research funding by an additional 8 to 10 per cent.

“Insufficient funding, coupled with deep budget cuts under sequestration, could be devastating for research,” warned Research!America’s chairman, former Rep. John Porter. “Our global competitiveness hinges on a robust investment that will support bright scientific minds, create high-quality jobs and provide a catalyst for private sector innovation.”

The organisation’s data show that federal funding for research totalled $39.5bn in FY2011, compared with nearly $45.9bn the previous year.

“As R&D spending abroad outpaces federal investments here at home, US companies will set up shop in countries with stronger policies to support research,” warned Mary Woolley, Research!America’s president and CEO.

Industry investments in R&D reached $77.6bn in 2011, a 1.4 per cent rise from 2010. The pharmaceutical industry increased its investments to $38.5bn, a 3 per cent increase. However, biotechnology investment declined by nearly $800 million, or 3 per cent.