February 15, 2009
Medical Research Spending In US To Increase $10 Billion

Arlen Specter put a large medical rsesearch spending increase in the US economic stimulus bill.

WASHINGTON — For years, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania has been the National Institutes of Health’s most ardent champion on Capitol Hill. Having survived two bouts with cancer, open-heart surgery and even a faulty diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease, he has long insisted that research that results in medical cures is the best service that government can provide.

But even lobbyists are stunned by the coup Mr. Specter pulled off this week. In return for providing one of only three Republican votes in the Senate for the Obama administration’s $787 billion economic stimulus package, he was able to secure a 34 percent increase in the health agency’s budget — to $39 billion from $29 billion.

Specter made a good deal. The medical research spending will speed the rate of advance in our understanding of the causes of diseases. The fiscal stimulus bill was going to pass anyway. He made sure it accomplished at least one constructive result.

We are all getting older every day. The faster medical research moves forward the sooner we will reach the day when we can start turning back the clock on our bodies and gradually make ourselves young again.

I suspect such a large single year increase in NIH funding will have the effect of getting approval for more risky and less mainstream grant proposals. This might let some less conventional approaches get investigated and perhaps open up some fruitful lines of research.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 February 15 11:29 PM  Policy Medical

TTT said at February 15, 2009 11:48 PM:

The rate of innovation does not corelate to the level of funding indefinitely.

If there are not enough good reseachers, the money goes to waste. Thus, it becomes pork.

HellKaiserRyo said at February 16, 2009 12:34 AM:

"He made sure it accomplished at least one constructive result."

I am not worried about doing anything "contructive" now. I regard the welfare provision in the "stimulus" to be more akin to riot prevention which is at least not "destructive." I am also glad that more contraception funding is in the bill too.

On another topic, I could image one possible outcome of this crisis is the relative prosperity of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland (hopefully Sweden has the resources to protect itself from the Baltic bust) because their welfare states generate enough social capital and low inequality and in other regions of the world it would get so bad that it might be possible that some of their productive infrastructure would be destroyed. In that scenario, Sweden has the benefit of not worrying about being "competitive" and they were already "competitive" before the crisis.

Carl S. said at February 16, 2009 1:27 AM:

There are diminishing marginal returns from increased spending when that means drawing in less skilled researchers, but institutional factors cause big problems when real budgets are frozen or grow slowly, as they have in recent years. Funding agencies commit all their resources to avoid having excess funds on hand (leading to reduction of their budgets) and funds for new and unconnected researchers become scarce. This huge surge of money will allow more to get to talented young scientists without long track records, connections, or extreme bureaucratic skills.

David Govett said at February 16, 2009 2:03 AM:

If we taxpayers are going to pay for the research, the income from resulting patents should reduce taxpayer obligations to the IRS.

Readcoat said at February 16, 2009 2:55 AM:

Spectre is twisting the knife in the backs of taxpayers and the productive private sector. He is helping destroy the US economy, then holding up a slice of expropriated liver and saying "hey, look what I'm doing to help you!"

Kudzu Bob said at February 16, 2009 3:43 AM:

Spending billions of dollars on research won't necessarily advance medicine, and might even retard the growth of knowledge. For an example of what I mean look at how lavishing money on the cholesterol hypothesis of heart disease diverted funding from potentially more productive lines of research, such as Kilmer McCully's work on homocysteine. Bad science drives out good science.

Steve Fyten said at February 16, 2009 4:37 AM:

The problem is that there will only be government health care in a few years. When that occurs, the oldest people in society will be denied expensive life saving procedures. Big Brother will not want to spend money extending people's lives.

Paul F. Dietz said at February 16, 2009 6:06 AM:

The malpractice system in the US, coupled with the insurance system, has contributed to an upward spiral in medical costs.

If there is an expensive, but marginally better, treatment option available, and insurance will cover it, a doctor can be sued if he doesn't pursue that option.

It needs to be ok for consumers of medical services, like consumers of any other good or service, to be forced to make tradeoffs of cost vs. quality.

James Bowery said at February 16, 2009 7:47 AM:

If the government funded things like the M-Prize then this appropriation wouldn't be destructive. However, it is clear from past history that whenever the government involves itself in technology investment, it creates bureaucracies that must be politically protected from accountability for failure lest the politicians themselves be exposed as poor investors. This ends badly -- in self-perpetuating and anticompetitive technosocialist monstrosities like Shuttle and Tokamak that kill off real technology development.

David Govett said at February 16, 2009 3:44 PM:

The money would be used to recruit top researchers from abroad, weakening their research efforts. Beggar thy biotech neighbor, so to speak.

persiflage said at February 16, 2009 6:34 PM:

It seems like government subsidization of politically-selected arenas of scientific research sucks up and diverts both money and human resources that would otherwise have been deployed in market-selected arenas. Would not market-selected research likely involve a more diverse mix of topics, and have a greater incentive for efficiency than that selected for political impact by the government?
But there is a fundamental question that no recipient of Federal medical research largesse will ever be likely to ask: How is the selection and subsidization of politically-favored arenas of medical research in any way a legitimate function of the Federal government? I can't find that function, or anything remotely related to that function, mentioned anywhere in the "enumerated powers" parts of the Constitution. The issue should be moot.

Leigh Ganschow said at February 16, 2009 10:47 PM:

From a guy who just lost his biotech job.

I just lost my job two weeks ago after nine years in a biotech company. Here is the scenario: My company's phase III drug failed - but we still had a lot of money - so we were a merger target for other companies with no money, but a promising phase III drug. OK - that's normal. So, we merged with a private company that wanted to go public through the company I was in as a shell (and to get our money.) That's OK. That's normal now that nobody goes IPO anymore because of the regulatory burden imposed on public companies.

What's not normal is that the company that acquired us doesn't actually do any research themselves. They fired every researcher and person supporting research the day the merger completed. They get all their research paid for by NIH grants which they re-direct through a university - so the only researchers who get jobs are professors and low-paid graduate students. The IP generated by the research gets split between the grantors and the university... so MY TAX DOLLARS GIVEN TO THE NIH KILLED MY OWN JOB.

That's what happens when you let the government run research.

Renee du Champes said at February 17, 2009 2:01 PM:

The government is here to help you. Help you out of everything you've ever earned. Help you into the grave.
This new fascist style of government will destroy every opportunity people in the private sector once had.
Zimbabwe, Venezuela, now the US. Burn baby burn.

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