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Scott P.
Democrat CA 52

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  • The Decline in U.s. Research

    by Representative Scott H. Peters

    Posted on 2013-12-11

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    PETERS of California. Thank you, Ms. Speier. I would like to thank you, my colleague from California, for organizing this discussion and for your continued efforts to end the assault on NIH funding.

    Mr. Speaker, for decades, our country has been at the forefront of scientific discovery. We have had the friendliest atmosphere for scientists to do their work, for innovators to start their new ventures, and for universities to invest in research laboratories.

    We are in danger of losing that competitive advantage, and the across-the-board sequester cuts, which I adamantly opposed during my time here, is only amplifying the decline.

    Now, instead of supporting and promoting our country's robust backing for scientific and health research, we are undercutting it through congressional gridlock and government shutdowns.

    This inability to find bipartisan agreement has undoubtedly harmed our national reputation and limits our ability to bring the best and brightest here from around the world.

    Earlier this year, I toured the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda to visit some of their labs, to meet with patients and hear from its director, Dr. Francis Collins, about the work that NIH does and how the sequester has affected them.

    Dr. Collins, as Ms. Speier said, has been a constant voice against the sequester and has vocalized the impact it has had on the ability of NIH to invest in necessary research and grants. Just this year, more than 700 grants were cut and the agency was forced to pare down its operations by $1.5 billion.

    Dr. Collins told Sam Stein of the Huffington Post on the 10-year outlook, should sequester not end, and I quote, I think we may have just heard this quote: I think we will no longer be the world leader in the production of science, technology, and innovation.

    As the largest funder of biomedical research in the world, the NIH is not only a significant driver of research and innovation, leading to improvements in quality of life and better patient care, but it also drives job creation in related fields.

    In 2011, more than 400,000 jobs and $62 billion of economic activity came from NIH research funding. And on a health level, advances from NIH research can have enormous economic benefit for the global economy.

    A 1 percent reduction in cancer deaths has $500 billion in economic value. Imagine what the power would be of delaying the onset of chronic diseases or finding cures to various types of cancer.

    Importantly, NIH is also a significant funder of research universities across the country through its competitive grants. According to NIH documents, more than 80 percent of their budget is awarded to our country's universities and institutes, including $884 million in grants to San Diego institutions just in 2012.

    In the last fiscal year, institutions in my district received more than 1,300 NIH grants. UC San Diego received almost $400 million through 802 grants in 2012 alone, supporting thousands of jobs in the San Diego region, and advancing our local innovation economy.

    San Diego, depending on how you calculate it, is either the second or third largest life science cluster in the country. These companies and research institutions make up approximately one-third of San Diego's regional economy, generating more than 200,000 jobs.

    Nationwide, life sciences companies support more than 7 million jobs, adding $69 billion in activity to our national economy.

    Locally, Amplyx Pharmaceuticals received more than $1.5 million in NIH grants to research and develop new drugs to fight functional infections, and Digital Proteomics received a grant to research antibodies that target specific antigens, leading to better treatments for numerous diseases.

    Other examples are the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, where they are researching breakthrough vaccines to some of the world's most damaging immune diseases, including type 1 diabetes and various types of cancer, and the Veterans Medical Research Foundation, where studies on PTSD and brain imaging are underway to better understand the impact of violence and conflict on the body and brain. These institutions have received numerous grants this year, totaling more than $30 million.

    As the last local example, in 2011, the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute received more than $70 million in NIH funding as part of its research in metabolic rates and obesity. And Scripps Research, also in San Diego, was awarded more than $200 million, part of which went to their research on determining the structure of H1N1, also known as the swine flu.

    Mr. Speaker, there are countless examples across San Diego and the country like the ones I just named where researchers are doing groundbreaking research that has the potential to improve and extend lives. That is good for our economy, for the American people, and for the health of people across the world.

    Clearly, not all scientific research can or should be funded by the Federal Government or NIH. I wouldn't advocate that, nor my colleagues, but I can't stand for continuing down the path of sequester, where we cut support for the hardworking scientists and researchers who have brought the United States to the front of the pack.

    Later this week, I will be introducing a bill to extend the research and development tax credit and lower the barrier to collaborative research by encouraging collaboration and consortia. That is just one piece of a larger discussion we have to have as we look to reform the Tax Code so we incentivize innovators, entrepreneurs, and researchers to start their endeavors here in the United States.

    Sam Stein also reported in the Huffington Post in August that nearly 20 percent of scientists were contemplating moving their operations overseas in part due to the sequester.

    Other countries, China, Brazil, Germany, South Korea, Japan, Israel, they are making investments in science and in research and development that will threaten to leave us in the dust. Brain drain will be a reality if we do not act quickly, a phenomena that would affect many communities across the country in a very negative way, including my own.

    On first read, the budget deal proposed last night by Senator Murray and Congressman Ryan, if it passes Congress later this week, would allow the NIH more flexibility. It would potentially bring back some funding to NIH and NSF over the next 2 years.

    But let's be clear. Scientists, universities, and institutions are still looking at unstable long-term budgets where sequester looms over their head. And as lawmakers, we can't rest on this foolish sequester cut until these cuts are fully reversed.

    Again, I want to thank Ms. Speier for organizing this Special Order. NIH funding and our Nation's overall support for basic scientific research funding and the innovation economy are central to the economic future of San Diego, of California, and of the entire country.

    So I appreciate the opportunity to speak about ending the sequester, about promoting and increasing funding for basic scientific research, especially at NIH, and to a continued discussion here in Congress.

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