Bayles is associate vice chancellor for basic science research at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Murray is associate vice president for health science research and associate dean for research at Creighton University.
When the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction — the congressional super committee — could not agree on budget cuts, the result was that both defense and domestic budgets, including medical research supported by the National Institutes of Health, were destined for massive cuts beginning in 2013. If something is not done, these cuts could be far more devastating to the NIH budget than what would have otherwise been agreed upon.
With today's trillion-dollar federal budget deficits, it is tempting to simply implement across-the-board cuts to our federal programs. But it is important to know the consequences of such actions. For the NIH, it would have a major effect on our standing as the clear world leader in biomedical research.
In the 10-year period from 1999 to 2009, the United States saw its investment in research and development drop from 38 percent of the world's total to 31 percent. During that same period, R&D investment in Asia rose from 24 percent to 35 percent, led mainly by China, which now ranks second in the world in this category.
We should not be afraid of China's rise on this stage, but we should fear the impact that our divestment in biomedical research would have on our health, as well as the loss of a major driver of job-creating innovation.
Medical research improves the economic health of our nation and communities. A new study by Tripp Umbach, a national economic consulting firm, found that federal- and state-funded research conducted in 2009 at the nation's medical schools and teaching hospitals supports nearly 300,000 U.S. jobs.
This same study found that the economic impact of research in Nebraska medical schools and teaching hospitals resulted in $155 million in business activity in 2009.
More importantly, for millions of Americans and their families who suffer from serious illnesses, medical research offers hope. NIH-funded medical research over the past 60 years has led to the advances that now help Americans live longer and healthier lives.
For example, thanks to research advances, deaths due to heart attacks and other types of heart disease are down 60 percent — and deaths after stroke are down 70 percent — compared with the years around World War II.
Deaths from cancer have dropped by about 11 percent in women and 19 percent in men in just the past 15 years because of advances in screening and treatments. HIV infection used to kill people in their 20s. Now, new combination treatments allow those with HIV infection to live to age 70 or beyond.
A baby born today can look forward to an average life span of nearly 78 years, almost 30 years longer than a baby born in 1900.
Research at medical schools, universities and academic medical centers supported by NIH funding creates skilled jobs and new diagnostic and medicinal products that generate economic growth right here in Nebraska.
NIH funding here in Nebraska, at the Creighton University School of Medicine and the University of Nebraska Medical Center, is being used to find new markers of pancreatic cancer, improve the health of farm families, develop new therapies for heart disease, improve treatments for osteoporosis, develop a vaccine for Parkinson's disease, and create new formulations of medications that can better reach the brain.
We all would like a simple, short-term solution to reduce the deficit, but most American voters understand the importance of a long-term national investment in medical research.
According to a new survey conducted for the Association of American Medical Colleges, 62 percent of registered voters oppose significant cuts to medical research to trim the nation's budget deficit.
Let your congressional representatives know what you think — don't jeopardize the physical health of our citizens and economic health of our communities tomorrow by cutting funding for medical research today.