Two Johns Hopkins faculty members predict an ever-shrinking supply of government and drug company grants for basic scientific research in the coming years.
Hamilton Moses III, MD, adjunct professor of neurology, and E. Ray Dorsey, MD, MBA, an associate professor of neurology, point to the hyper-inflation of research costs, the threat of federal funding cuts tied to the so-called “fiscal cliff,” and the higher-than-ever costs of clinical trials as reason for researchers to seek “innovative” approaches to fundraising.
“Regardless of what happens in Congress,” says Moses, “biomedical research must look to the private sector and not the federal government as the source of new funds.” The two Johns Hopkins professors also have experience in business. Moses is a management consultant and Dorsey is an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.
Moses says that the National Institutes of Health, which doles out $32 billion a year to basic research, has already reduced the amount of grants for individual investigators, who have historically produced most biomedical innovations.
According to Moses, both NIH and big pharma — another key source of research funding — are instead directing funds toward collaborations, multicenter clinical trials and large-scale projects such as the Human Genome Project.
As only five percent of research grants come from private charities and foundations, Moses and Dorsey stress alternative sources such as mutual funds for individual and institutional investors, “Biomedical Research Bonds,” and patent pools to share the risks and rewards of tech transfer.
“These models are analogous to those used to build sports arenas, ports, bridges or highways, lessening the financial burden on government,” the professors explain. “They also promise to lower barriers that prevent collaboration between competing universities, companies and researchers.”
Since basic research is not likely to yield any money until long after the investment, researchers should look for investors on top of those seeking financial rewards, such as people with a personal stake in a disease or philanthropists.
“Science is a form of speculation, and the risk of failure is quite high,” Moses says. “Yet it’s precisely the high-risk, high-reward scientific endeavors that aren’t getting funded anymore. We need to find a way to ensure they are. Clinical need and scientific opportunity far outstrip our current ability to support innovation.”
Source: Science Codex