Dr. Collins, MD, PhD, Director of National Institutes of Health in Louisville to Talk Negotiating Federal Grants for Research & Development

By Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N.

The Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Francis Collins, MD, PhD, was in town on Thursday, August 25 to empower the University of Louisville (U of L) Medical School Faculty and Staff since the Medical School is getting $48 million of new federal grants from NIH for research and development.  According to the National Science Foundation figures which are published in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education, U of L’s funding increased to the fourth fastest rate among 100 universities nationwide between 1999 and 2009. U of L was awarded $20,041,440 in 1999 but received $72,770,000 in 2009 which is an increase in 263.1%.  (The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, where I worked as a research nutritionist in the 1980’s, increased their funding by 893.9% was number one).

NIH Grants are Not Easy to Secure

NIH is the largest major funder and conductor of biomedical research in the world. The NIH budget is $31 billion – 84% of which is awarded to universities, institutes, and small businesses through a vigorous peer review process. In fact, the NIH extramural program supports more than 40,000 competitive research grants and 325,000 research personnel at more than 3,000 universities, medical schools, and other research institutions in all 50 states, U.S. territories, and around the world.

Dr. James Ramsey. President of U of L, and Dr. Collins both acknowledged that Senator Mitch McConnell, who was also in attendance, worked diligently behind the scenes to help secure the federal grants for U of L researchers.

The Economic Impact on Louisville

Dr. Collins suggested the federal grants from NIH will increase business activity both directly and indirectly in the Louisville area. According to research provided by Families USA, each dollar of NIH award money generates about $2.12 of new business activity within one, while each grant awarded by NIH generates about seven jobs.

When asked about the economy and the cuts in government spending, Senator McConnell said, “The emphasis on debt reduction is going to have an impact on the federal budget across the board. And I think, particularly in the area of Congressional-directed funding, it’s going to be a minimum. That, of course, makes the role of NIH even more important.”

The U.S. Slipping as a Global Leader in Science and Innovation

What was not discussed by Dr. Collins in the press conference is the fact that the U.S. is slipping as the world leader in global competitiveness in terms of turning discovery into health practice. According to NIH projections, the U.S. is losing ground in research and development (R & D) investment growth rates to Asia, particularly China.  In fact, China’s growth rate is 4 times higher than the U.S. rate in terms of R & D. That may be one of the reasons GE decided to relocate all of their health innovation products to China late in 2010.

It’s a widely known fact that many U.S. manufacturing companies have outsourced the manufacture of goods to China because of the low cost and lack of government regulations. But now according to information provided by NIH, the U.S. is also losing its leadership in science and innovation, as well.  Once manufacturing was outsourced, health care had become the number one economic engine that ran the U.S. economy but this seems to be yet one more slap in our economy’s face openly competing with China once again and sadly China seems to be winning the global leadership in science and innovation over the U.S. Check out the specific Key Facts on U.S. Competitiveness in the Global Research Arena which was prepared by NIH.

Key Facts on U.S. Competitiveness in the Global Research Arena

The U.S. still is the world leader in science and engineering research. But that leadership role is being challenged by China, India, and other nations as they recognized the economic, health, and social benefits of investing in R & D.

Over the past decade, R & D intensity has grown in Asia, but remained flat in the U.S.

Growth of R & D expenditures in the US averaged 5 – 6% annually from 1996 – 2007. lagging behind the worldwide average of 7% per year.  In contrast, growth in most Asian nations exceeded worldwide average, and China’s R & D expenditures grew more than 20% annually from 1996 – 2007.

The U.S. share of high technology exports fell by one-third from 1996 – 2007. China’s share more than tripled.

India exported $8.3 billion in pharmaceutical products and services in FY 2009, up 25% from the previous year.


About 277,000 people, ranging from scientists and to production workers, are currently employed by pharmaceutical companies in the United States, a decline of 5% from 2008.  More than 340,000 people work in India’s pharmaceutical manufacturing industry in 2009 – and the industry is projected to grow by 13% in 2010.


Between 1995 and 2007, the worldwide share of researchers working in China, Singapore, South Korea, or Taiwan rose from 16% to 31%.


In 2007, the U.S. had 1.47 million people engaged in scientific research; China had 1.42 million – and it was generating R & D jobs at three times the rate of the U.S.


In the U.S., the percentage of undergraduate students who major in science and engineering is 15%; in China, it is 50%.


In 1995, China ranked 14th in the world in the production of research publications. In 2008, it ranked second.


China’s leading genome sequencing institute BGI, is on track to sequence more than 10,000 human genomes. That would surpass the entire DNA sequencing output of the U.S.


For more on how shifts in global research capacity are challenging the U.S. to actively focus on maintaining its competitive strength, go to http://nsf.gov/statistics/nsb1003/.


Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N, is a registered dietitian (www.DayByDayNutrition.com) and an author, who has been teaching healthy lifestyles strategies to consumers for over 35+ years. Check out Barbara’s new healthy lifestyles website: www.KentuckianaHEALTHwellness.com