US risks losing out to Asia in medical research
Medical research saves lives, suffering and dollars – while also creating jobs and economic activity. The United States has long led the world, with hundreds of thousands of jobs and marketable discoveries generated by government research funding every year. Top students from around the world come here for training—and often stay to help fuel medical innovation.
Now, warns a team of researchers in the New England Journal of Medicine, the U.S. risks losing out to Asia as the hub of medical discovery.
The result, they caution, could be a "brain drain" of top young researchers, and the loss of untold discoveries and economic activity. The authors are two physician researchers from the University of Michigan Medical School and VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, and an American researcher who left the U.S. for better job prospects in Singapore.
They compiled data on five Asian countries – China, India, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan – that are all boosting their government support for medical research right now. All five have a long-term plan for increased support for such research, as part of efforts to boost their national economies and world standing.
By contrast, American medical scientists and physician researchers face almost certain cuts to federal research funding.
At best, the authors say, funding for the National Institutes of Health – which supports most U.S. medical research – will fail to keep pace with inflation next year.
At worst, if the federal budget falls off the 'fiscal cliff' of automatic cuts, American medical research spending will fall by 8 percent, with thousands of researchers cut off from funding. One estimate says this could cost the U.S. $4.5 billion in economic activity. There are also proposals to cut entire health research agencies.
By contrast, China has increased spending on medical research by 67 percent, South Korea by 24 percent, India by 15 percent, Singapore by 12.5 percent and Taiwan by 4 percent in the most recent year for which data was available.
"In recent years, NIH funding has not kept pace with growth in biomedical innovation, making it harder for scientists to win grants," says first author Gordon Sun. M.D., an otolaryngologist and health researcher who is currently a 2011-2013 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at U-M, supported by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. "Meanwhile, these five Asian countries have pledged long-term increases in funding."
He notes that the number of clinical trials of new medical ideas in the U.S. has fallen, while the number in countries like China has grown.
Sun and his co-authors warn that this trend could lead to long-term economic damage for the United States and the loss of its stature as a global leader in the field. "Powerful incentives that can retain an elite biomedical research workforce are necessary to strengthen the U.S. health care system and economy," they write.
The stakes of this Asian rise and American decline are highest for current and future postdoctoral fellows – young researchers who have finished their M.D. or Ph.D. training and have decided to go into research as a career.
Post-doctoral training in a laboratory or health research specialty usually primes them for their first full-time research position – and their first grant applications as independent researchers. Winning grants year after year is vital to a research career – making sustained federal research support important.
But with grant dollars becoming harder to find in the U.S., and easier to obtain in Asia, young researchers may choose to take their very portable talents overseas.
In fact, China has started programs to attract young Chinese scientists back to China after training in the U.S.
And with English being the common language for researchers in India and Singapore, those nations may attract increasing numbers of American-born researchers – such as Jeffrey Steinberg, Ph.D., Sun's co-author and personal friend. He now works at the Singapore Bioimaging Consortium, supported by the nation's Agency for Science, Technology, and Research.
"In researching this article, we were surprised at how well-developed other countries' plans are for including medical research and scientific research as part of long-term goals," says Sun. "All of them have a fairly well-defined plan, which is part of their overall efforts to become economic powers. Whereas in the U.S., NIH funding is considered as just another part of the annual budget, and can be cut at any time."
The American approach to budgeting for medical research appears to ignore the long-term economic payoff of sustained research, says Sun. "Simply cutting research spending off will end a lot of projects immediately. Then, all these well-trained people – what are they going to do? Many will go somewhere where their work may be more appreciated."
Journal reference: New England Journal of Medicine
Provided by University of Michigan Health System
- More than half of Americans doubt US global leadership in 2020 Mar 14, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- New report: US investment in health research remains stagnant Sep 08, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Biomedical research policy needed for therapies, economic growth, education and security Sep 02, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- The Scientific State of the Union Jan 29, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- Health costs huge risk to advanced economies: IMF Apr 12, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras
Apr 15, 2011 I'd like to open a discussion thread for version 2 of the draft of my book ''Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras'', available online at http://lanl.arxiv.org/abs/0810.1019 , and for the...
- More from Physics Forums - Independent Research
More news stories
The gap between life expectancy in patients with a mental illness and the general population has widened since 1985 and efforts to reduce this gap should focus on improving physical health, suggest researchers in a paper ...
Health 8 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Failure to use linked electronic health records may lead to biased estimates of heart attack incidence and outcome, warn researchers in a paper published in BMJ today.
Health 8 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0
Dietary advice on added sugar is damaging our health, warns a cardiologist in BMJ today. Dr. Aseem Malhotra believes that "not only has this advice been manipulated by the food industry for profit but it is actually a risk ...
Health 8 hours ago | 5 / 5 (4) | 0
(HealthDay)—In 2008 to 2010, the prevalence of key health behaviors among U.S. adults varied, with about one in five adults current smokers and 62.1 percent overweight or obese, according to a report presented ...
Health 11 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0
(HealthDay)—The overall health of Americans isn't improving much, with about six in 10 people either overweight or obese and large numbers engaging in unhealthy behaviors like smoking, heavy drinking or ...
Health 11 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
(Medical Xpress)—Native peoples in regions where cameras are uncommon sometimes react with caution when their picture is taken. The fear that something must have been stolen from them to create the photo ...
15 hours ago | 4.2 / 5 (5) | 0 |
(Medical Xpress)—Despite spending billions of dollars on research and development, drug companies have been unable to come up with effective treatments for dementia and Alzheimer's Disease (AD). Now, A. ...
13 hours ago | 4.9 / 5 (11) | 0 |
Australian scientists have charted the path of insulin action in cells in precise detail like never before. This provides a comprehensive blueprint for understanding what goes wrong in diabetes.
15 hours ago | 4.6 / 5 (7) | 0 |
An experimental sleeping pill from US drug company Merck is effective at helping people fall and stay asleep, according to reviewers at the US Food and Drug Administration, which could soon approve the new drug.
9 hours ago | 3.7 / 5 (3) | 0
Activating an enzyme known to play a role in the anti-aging benefits of calorie restriction delays the loss of brain cells and preserves cognitive function in mice, according to a study published in the May ...
10 hours ago | 5 / 5 (4) | 0 |
A drug commonly used to treat depression and anxiety may improve a stress-related heart condition in people with stable coronary heart disease, according to researchers at Duke Medicine.
11 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |