Evaluating the types of grants young investigators are applying for could provide a better sense of how to maintain them, and to attract more back to NIH-funded research. Though the authors provide applicant metrics as guidance to the NIH, they do not believe changes to NIH policy would greatly sway the current course. Nevertheless, the effects of the past decade’s cuts on NIH spending are undeniable.

Between 2007 and 2012, the US decreased biomedical Research and Development (R&D) spending by 1.9% as other countries invested more. China increased their R&D expenditure by 32.8%. The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) summarizes that the U.S. lost 22% of its NIH funding since 2003 due to budget cuts, the 2013 sequestration, and inflation.2

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Though the NIH increased its budget by 5.9% last year, the loss is not mitigated. As academic centers and universities switch to a reliance on federal grants, funding has simultaneously become more limited and more competitive.

The HR6 – 21st Century Cures Act is making its way through congress and stands to increase NIH funding by $3 billion; FASEB predicts this increase will make up for the funding deficit. HR6 also includes expansion of NIH Loan Repayment Programs, built to attract young scientists away from industry by compensating for salary differences through student loan assistance.3 The maximum reward would be increased to $50,000 per annum of NIH-related research, adjusted annually for inflation.

Yet the decision to enter industry is personal. In an interview with Cancer Therapy Advisor, Dr Heggeness, PhD, a research economist and branch chief for the U.S. Census Bureau in Washington, D.C., said, “somebody going into industry, from a national perspective, is not necessarily costing the country talent.” Still, new paradigms are needed, and private-public collaborations are a promising way forward.

The Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP), a partnership between the NIH, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 10 biopharmaceutical companies, and non-profit organizations, focuses on Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus research. Previous NIH collaborations with industry have proven fruitful, and similar partnerships in the non-profit sector are becoming prevalent.

There is an evolving acknowledgement that the way research is conducted has become inefficient, particularly in light of major advances in imaging, proteomics and genomics. With the mission of these alliances centering around maximizing resources, knowledge-sharing, and expediency in treatment development, their priorities highlight fundamental scientific ideals attractive to both emerging and established researchers.


  1. Heggeness ML, Carter-Johnson F, Schaffer WT, Rockey SJ. Policy implications of aging in the NIH-funded workforce. Cell Stem Cell. 7 Jul 2016. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.stem.2016.06.012 [Epub ahead of print]
  2. NIH Research Funding Trends. Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). http://faseb.org/Science-Policy-and-Advocacy/Federal-Funding-Data/NIH-Research-Funding-Trends.aspx. Accessed July 2016.
  3. H.R.6 – 21st Century Cures Act. Congress.gov. https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/6/text. Updated July 13, 2015. Accessed July 2016.