traditional domain of public funding, which optimizes opportunities for scientific advance in several ways:

  • The differing roles of public and private investment in research.

  • The increased likelihood of advancing knowledge through a broad spectrum of diverse research activities.

  • The increased accessibility of research results as a consequence of public funding.

  • The enhanced opportunities for oversight and regulation associated with public funding.

The Roles of Public and Private Resources for Basic Research

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the largest federal sponsor of health research, with a budget of more than $20 billion in FY2001. Even in 1997, pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms exceeded that total for overall biomedical research (Institute of Medicine, 1998), spending about $19 billion and $8 billion respectively in that year. In 2001, an estimated $50 billion will be spent on US biomedical research by public and private funding sources combined (Nathan et al., 2001). But within the larger system, NIH is the primary sponsor of the basic biomedical research that produces new fundamental knowledge. By its own accounting, NIH estimated that 62% of its budget was devoted to basic research in FY1996. By comparison, basic research represented an average of only about 14 percent of all private-sector pharmaceutical R&D in the 1990s, with pharmaceuticals representing the major area of concentration for private R&D according to a recently completed National Research Council report on trends in support of research (NRC, 2001). Although not-for-profit private entities, such as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, also support basic research, private-sector efforts are dominated by for-profit companies that focus their research investments on product-related applications, such as new drugs, diagnostic tools, and medical devices that cure, detect, or prevent disease.

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