Federal research funding to Washington University provides economic boost to region

Federal investment in biomedical research is a major driver of jobs and economic activity. Two new reports highlight the ripple effects of this investment.

One report, by the nonprofit coalition United for Medical Research, concludes that in 2010 alone, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) directly and indirectly supported nearly 500,000 jobs and produced nearly $70 billion in new economic activity. More than 80 percent of the agency’s annual budget funds the work of researchers at universities and medical schools around the country, including many hundreds at Washington University.

In 2010, Washington University School of Medicine received $348 million in NIH funding. This support helped to fund major projects to unravel the genetic basis of cancer, discover the root causes of Alzheimer’s disease and to explore the link between intestinal microbes and diseases such as obesity and malnutrition.

In all, Washington University received a total of $437 million in 2010 from all federal sources.

The report calculated the number of jobs created by NIH funding in each state. California led the list with 71,734 jobs, and Missouri ranked 18th with 8,773 jobs supported by NIH funding.

United for Medical Research is a coalition of advocacy groups and universities that includes the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, and institutions such as Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Washington University.

A second report, from the Battelle Memorial Institute, finds that the $3.8 billion spent by the federal government from 1988 – 2003 to map the human genome has helped to drive $796 billion in economic gains. In 2010 alone, the investment generated about $67 billion in annual economic activity and supported 310,000 jobs.

Scientists at Washington University’s Genome Institute played a leading role in the Human Genome Project, contributing about 25 percent of the finished DNA sequence. Over the years, the institute has received nearly $700 million in federal research funding.

The institute’s scientists are now focused on decoding the genomes of patients with cancer and other diseases. Their research is aimed at improving diagnosis and providing more personalized treatment options to patients based on the specific genetic profiles of their tumors.