DENVER, Colo. – The biomedical research industry supports more than seven million jobs and contributes $69 billion to the U.S. GDP. In 2015, with a budget of over $30 billion, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded more than 300,000 scientists to support groundbreaking research around the globe.
Despite these numbers, April Giles, executive director of the Colorado BioScience Association (CBSA), pointed out, “Depending on their area of expertise, only about 12-25% of post-docs and PhDs actually have the opportunity to go into academic research.”
The 21st Century Cures Act, which was signed into law on December 13th, aims to increase investment in biomedical research and streamline federal review and approval processes. In order to ensure that America remains a global leader in medical innovation, legislators are looking to groups such as the CBSA for input on where investment would make the biggest impact to accelerate discovery.
“While the Cures Act authorizes new dollars for research, Congress must annually appropriate funds for many of these new initiatives,” said Mara Baer, founder and president of AgoHealth, a Denver-based health policy-consulting firm. “This gives Colorado’s growing innovator community a unique opportunity to weigh in and advocate for its funding priorities and also tell the ecosystem’s story.”
Colorado has been ahead of the curve, with groups like CBSA, the University of Colorado, and the Boettcher Foundation leading innovative mentorship programs and targeting investments for early-career investigators to explore challenging questions. These models will serve as guidelines as the next administration works to make appropriations.
As April explained, “This funding is vital to the future of basic research. The workforce component is critical. We need to invest in the next generation of talent, at the benches, doing innovative research.”
The 21st Century Cures Act includes provisions aimed to leverage research investments with more efficient regulations, making it more attractive for private funders to translate research into new companies and products.
As Alan Curtis, program director at Innosphere, put it, “Private investment can act as a catalyst for bringing technology to market. The alignment of federal funding and private investor interests is how true biomedical innovation occurs and models like the State of Colorado Advanced Industry Program show the value of public-private partnerships.”
In addition to easing the administrative burden on researchers and encouraging collaboration between public and private stakeholders, the law aims to drive funding to support research in areas such as cancer care, precision medicine, regenerative therapies, and neurotechnologies.
“The next step for Colorado is to leverage Cure’s policy momentum, using it to further position the state as a leader in innovation,” added Baer. “Implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act provides a strong platform to do this.”