Published Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 2:39 pm
Midlands Voices: Research funding proves invaluable

Murray is an associate vice president for Health Science Research at Creighton University. Jesteadt is director of research at Boys Town National Research Hospital.

The Nebraska Tobacco Settlement Trust Fund was established in the 2001 legislative session as a source of revenue for the Nebraska Health Care Cash Fund, a portion of which is designated for annual support of biomedical research.

This investment continues to pay a lifetime of dividends in better health and quality of life for Nebraskans through the work done by the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Creighton University School of Medicine, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Boys Town National Research Hospital. Moreover, this research consortium has leveraged the support to increase federal funding to the state and help strengthen the local economy.

Research fuels Nebraska's economy. Between 2002 and 2011, every $1 million in Nebraska Tobacco Settlement funding resulted in $6.1 million in new National Institutes of Health grant awards to the state. This has directly contributed to Nebraska's 106 percent gain in scientific and research jobs, drastically outperforming the average national growth of only 64 percent.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recently commissioned Tripp Umbach, a highly respected national economic consulting firm, to examine the impact of federal- and state-funded medical research conducted at AAMC-member medical schools and teaching hospitals. The report released this year reveals a $3.5 billion impact on the Nebraska economy in fiscal year 2011, including an associated 23,326 jobs.

The steady stream of funding allows Nebraska's research institutions to attract world-class researchers to the state to share their talents and discoveries.

At the Creighton University School of Medicine, support from the Nebraska Health Care Cash Fund has allowed the discovery of a possible link between ingestion of tortillas and other corn-based food products contaminated with a fungal toxin and increased risk for birth defects. It is also funding Creighton's epilepsy research program, which is making progress in understanding the remarkable effectiveness of the ketogenic diet in the treatment of patients with epilepsy.

At Boys Town National Research Hospital, support from the fund has facilitated development of one of the country's largest cochlear implant research programs and expansion of a program to find the molecular basis of Usher syndrome, the leading cause of combined deafness and blindness.

With every dollar invested, researchers are a step closer to new treatments and better outcomes. As dramatic as the state revenue impact numbers are, they represent a fraction of the full economic impact of research.

These data do not include the incalculable impact of lives saved and quality of life improved that result from research discoveries.

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