These are exciting times for biomedical research funding, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins told faculty members and students Wednesday at the 2017 Mcubed Symposium. A downward trend in NIH's federal funding that began around 2003 and hit a low point in 2013 has turned around in recent years. "The good news is we hit the bottom and things have started to move up in the right direction," said Collins, a former Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at U-M.
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By Martin Slagter firstname.lastname@example.org
ANN ARBOR, MI - Despite past concerns about funding levels for biomedical research, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins assured a University of Michigan crowd Wednesday, Nov. 1 that there is still a desire to fund research at the federal level.
Collins provided an update about some of the major research being conducted by the NIH, while also providing an overview of how UM is using those dollars, during the 2017 MCubed conference at Rackham Auditorium
During the 2017 fiscal year that ended Oct. 1, UM received $509 million in funding from the NIH, after receiving a total of $457 million in 2016.
In total, UM was received funding from 1,144 of the 1,580 NIH research grants provided to the state of Michigan in 2017, totaling $687 million, Collins said.
"The only way the NIH is able to claim progress and credit for all of these advances in medical research is because of institutions like the University of Michigan - one of our most successful grantee organizations," said Collins, director of the world's largest supporter of biomedical research, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009.
"It's a phenomenal institution in terms of strength of research capabilities," he added. "The faculty here are knowledgeable across a wide range disciplines. They are the best in the world in many of these areas. The facilities are such that you can conduct research that might be kind of complicated to do in other places."
University of Michigan's $457 million in NIH research funding topic of talk
National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins will speak at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 1 at Rackham Auditorium, 915 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor, as part of the 2017 MCubed conference.
Despite calls from President Donald Trump for deep cuts to the NIH dating back to March, Congress rejected his proposal in September.
The New York Times reports that the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bipartisan bill in early September providing $36.1 billion for the health institutes in the fiscal year that started in October. Trump had proposed to cut funds for the health institutes by $7.5 billion, or 22 percent, to $26.6 billion.
Collins said support for biomedical research remains a bipartisan area of government that hasn't been tainted in a polarized political climate.
"I think the American public appreciates that medical research is something that's not political and not partisan and Congress seems to agree on that," Collins said. "While everything right now seems kind of polarized, this is one place where I think we've managed to escape that. This is not just a cost, but an investment - an investment in people's lives."
Collins spoke during the MCubed conference, which also features Ted-style talks from selected MCubed teams, including: "Seeing the human eye in four dimensions," "What robots can teach us about snakes: Communicating with color and motion," "Digitizing Orson Welles' Heart of Darkness" and "Data-driven tools to curb the spread of healthcare-associated infections."
MCubed is a rapid funding program that aims to jumpstart research and scholarship by shortcutting the traditional, lengthy grant review process. It gives seed grants of either $60,000 or $15,000 to teams of three professors from at least two different disciplines.
During Collins' talk, UM President Mark Schlissel announced that MCubed would continue for another three-year cycle - its third since launching in 2012. A five-year, $30 million investment into research and scholarship through MCubed has tripled into a return of nearly $100 million in follow-on funding.
"MCubed is this wonderfully creative way to try to get investigators from different disciplines to work together - at least three of them - to be able to come up with ideas that wouldn't otherwise have happened," Collins said. "So much of exciting science now happens at that interface between different areas of expertise."
Schlissel said the NIH is instrumental in helping UM perform one of its most significant missions as a public institution.
"We're taking advantage of decades of momentum our nation is able to tap into now, because of a long term investment by our fellow citizens in biomedical research," Schlissel said. "The tools and the discovery potential has never been greater.
"We do research because of our commitment to the public," he added. "So our ambition in being here as faculty members is to make the world a better place by educating the most talented kids in the rising generation and doing research that improves the quality of the public's life, that drives the economy and that improves health, longevity and quality of life of our families and our neighbors."