Is the NIH Imploding?


That is the REALITY at the NIH.


That is the REALITY at the NIH.

Figures just published on Genomeweb look grim.  The good news is that the NIH grant success rate is now 17.4%.  The bad news is that this is the first time the rate has fallen  below 20 percent.  Statistics are wonderful things … but a fall from 20% to 17.4% is a 13% decrease in the success rate. Worse, 17.4 is nearly a 50% fall  from the period of 1999 to 2003. 

The reality is worse than that, specifically for the UW because we have been near the top or at the top of funding from NIH for many years.

The explosion of knowledge and methods growing out of genomics, combined with the globalization of research means the opportunity and the need for basic science research have both been growing exponentially.   Stem cell biology, just to take one field, barely existed in1999.  Our awareness of parasitic diseases, somewhat driven by Bill and Melinda Gates, has created immense opportunities to deal with diseases like malaria.  This year’s Nobel Prize recognized a new frontier in the diseases where we can make vaccines ….  all of this in the face of a massive and on going cut in funding for American biology.

At the UW and in Seattle, this explosion is very visible.  The new Department of Genome Science (the huge building at the west of the south campus) is one of the premier institutes pursuing this new frontier.  Genome Sciences directly impinges even on upper campus where there are major biology efforts in Computer Science, Chemistry, Bioengineering, Statistics, Anthropology, and even Philosophy.  In Seattle itself, the impact i seen at Amgen, Nova Nordsk, Seattle Children’s Institute, the Benaroya, UW South Lake Union, Institute for Systems Biology, Dendreon, and much more.

Even at a national level the economic argument is grim.  The real competition between the US and the rest of the world will, thankfully, not be fought with tanks and missiles.  21st century war is commercial war and the country best able to take advantage of scientific opportunities will win.

Especially grim is the effect on students at the UW.  As a top ranked research school, our School of Medicine competes toe-toe with Harvard, Stanford, Penn, Princeton, and MIT.  All of these have large private endowments that they use to supplement NIH finds, in effect making their programs MORE effective in the competition for resources … that is for NIH funds, industry funds but especially for students.  Endowment funded campuses supplement NIH funding from private sources.  As a result our students are increasingly paid less than students at our peer institutions.  To make matters worse, the NIH now requires that the UW subsidize tuition from non NIH sources. 

One way may be to meet up with Jim at his Halloween Party!

To make the situation even more dire, it appears that Jim McDermott, our representative, knows very little about UW School of Medicine. 

I urge any of you who know Jim to find ways of getting his attention!

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