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Federal Funding for Biomedical Research Rises $2 Billion

Sen. Dick Durbin visits Chicago campus to highlight importance of medical research
  • National Institutes of Health to receive $32.08 billion in 2016 federal funding
  • Funding’s 6.64 percent increase will help in search for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease cures
  • Better funding can avoid ‘brain drain,’ keep talented scientists in the U.S.

CHICAGO, Ill. --- In the field of biomedical science, researchers are always on the hunt for more funding to investigate, treat and cure diseases. Thanks to a $2 billion increase in federal funding from Congress this year, that hunt will be much easier.

“In this year’s federal budget, we had one of the most significant commitments to medical research we have seen in recent times,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said during a press conference Monday (Jan. 4) at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

In total, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will receive $32.08 billion nationally -- a 6.64 percent increase over last year -- from the omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2016. In 2015, Illinois received $710 million in NIH funding, supporting 14,000 jobs and creating more than $2 billion in economic activity.

“The United States has always been the destination for scientists across the world, but we’ve seen over the past few years a reverse brain drain where many of our best young researchers and seasoned researchers have, in fact, moved their laboratories to Europe and to Asia,” said Milan Mrksich, associate director of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, at Monday’s press conference. “This represents a real turning point in where we’re going and where we can go.” 

Of the $710 million of Illinois’ NIH funding last year, Northwestern University received $293 million to fund the University’s research ranging from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease.

"Once every 67 seconds in the United States, someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s,” Durbin said in Feinberg’s Method Atrium. “If we can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s in a matter of months, years, find a cure, we’ll save all the money we’re putting into medical research and more.”

Northwestern’s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center is one of 30 NIH-funded disease centers in the country and contributes to a national repository of data from 30,000 people gathered over 10 years. Emily Rogalski, a neuroscientist and associate professor at the center, said researchers from around the country can ask and answer questions about Alzheimer’s disease, which “has allowed for many translational discoveries over the years.”

“Without the support of the NIH, my laboratory would not exist,” Rogalski continued. “This funding commitment to the NIH represents an essential step in what I hope will be continued investment into the biomedical sciences … and is essential for making substantial progress in our quest to understand and hopefully prevent Alzheimer’s disease.”

As part of the 2016 fiscal year NIH funding, the Centers for Disease Control will receive $7.23 billion (a 4.5 percent increase over last year), U.S. veterans will receive $630 million (a 7 percent increase over last year) and the Department of Defense health programs will receive $1.93 billion (a 7 percent increase over last year).

“When it comes to medical research, the victims, the patients, the families … want to know when there’s a diagnosis that scares the heck out of them, whether or not there’s a cure or a surgical procedure or something that they can put hope in,” Durbin said. “That’s what medical research is all about.”