A new analysis finds that NIH-funded research also fuels the kinds of innovations that drive the U.S. economy.
Between 1990 and 2012, close to 1 in 10 projects made possible by an NIH grant resulted in a patent, usually for a university or a hospital.
The indirect effects were far greater: Close to 1 in 3 NIH research grants generated work that was cited in applications for commercial patents.
Over roughly two decades, 81,462 patents filed by companies and individuals cited at least one NIH-sponsored research project in their applications. Some 1,351 of those patents were for drugs that would go on to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
It is an argument often made in support of such scientific undertakings as space exploration, and sometimes for defense spending.
But when it comes to biomedical research, public spending is frequently dismissed as a way to sustain university professors or seek esoteric answers to the mysteries of life.
More than 80% of the NIH budget is parceled out to researchers across the country and around the world.
Each year, NIH’s 21 institutes award close to 50,000 competitive grants to investigators at more than 2,500 universities, independent labs and private companies. The University of California, for instance, received nearly $1.9 billion in total NIH funding last year.
Led by Harvard Business School entrepreneurship professor Danielle Li, the new research scoured 1,310,700 patent applications submitted between 1980 and 2012 in the “life sciences,” a category that includes drugs, medical devices and related technologies.
In the footnotes, citations and supporting data, the study authors looked for references to any of the 365,380 grants the NIH funded between 1980 and 2007, as well as to research articles generated by those grants.
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