How the NIH Fuels Private Business

A new report details the ways in which the federal science agency boost the US economy by stimulating the private sector.

By | July 25, 2013

WIKIMEDIA, US DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURYResearch supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) added $69 billion to the US gross domestic product and supported 7 million jobs in 2011 alone, according to a new report released by United for Medical Research, a coalition of industry, academic, and society partners that advocates for robust NIH budgets. The report also highlights specific examples of NIH funding that helped private companies get off the ground to become thriving members of the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.

Signature Genomics, for example, is a company that started with a new technology—microarray comparative genomic hybridization—developed by two NIH-funded researchers at the University of California, San Francisco. After being licensed and sublicensed, the technology was purchased in 2010 by PerkinElmer for $90 million.

Another company, TomoTherapy Inc., has changed the way that cancer is treated with radiation. University of Wisconsin researcher Thomas Mackie, who was supported by NIH grants for years, founded the company in 1997 with colleague Paul Reckwerdt after refining a technology that could zap tumors with radiation in an even manner. Today TomoTherapy employs 1,100 people worldwide, and its fiscal year 2012 revenue exceeded $400 million.

“The fact is that the next big medical breakthrough, and the next billion-dollar business idea, may well be sitting in the mind of a graduate student right now,” the authors of the report wrote. “With strong and continued NIH support, we have the perfect formula for another scientific, health and economic success story.”

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