Category Archives: Research

My view: Now is the time to invest in NIH

As the senior vice president of the University of Utah Health Sciences (UUHS), I have the privilege of working with some of the top researchers in the country who have devoted their lives to making discoveries that will change others’ lives for the better. With funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation’s primary medical research agency, leading scientists in the United States and our own state of Utah are closing in on discoveries that would save and improve countless lives. A snapshot of discoveries made by researchers at UUHS — including genetic causes for breast, ovarian and colon cancers and preventive and novel treatments for each — speaks volumes about the importance of federal funding for NIH.

This summer, University of Utah researchers identified a previously unknown but crucial component in the process of platelet generation, a discovery that could help ease serious side effects of treatment for multiple myeloma patients. At the same time, the NIH funded University of Utah Molecular Medicine and conducted studies to learn how metabolic stress, inflammation, bleeding and clotting contribute to diseases like diabetes and obesity. Findings like these are revolutionary because they translate into lives saved, enhanced and even lengthened. We are on the right track, but without proper funding for the NIH, our progress could be derailed.

Little attention has been given to the fact that NIH receives nearly 25 percent less in funding than it did in 2003, when adjusted for inflation. The immediate impact of this funding gap is the loss of funding for hundreds of promising proposals for research on cancer, Alzheimer’s and other diseases. Stagnant funding translates into stalled research, something neither Utah nor the rest of the country can afford. And as a leading academic research institution, this can translate to fewer researchers entering the profession. The U.S. has long been the global leader in medical research, but other countries are catching up quickly. If current trends continue, China will outspend the U.S. on medical research by the year 2022.

Utah’s leading research institutions and biotech companies received more than $159 million in research funding from NIH in 2013 alone, and the return on this investment has been significant and measurable. This federal investment not only furthers our scientific endeavors, but it also bolsters our economy. Utah is home to 911 bioscience businesses, and our residents held 23,406 bioscience industry jobs in 2010. From 2010-2013, University of Utah innovation has led to the formation of 75 start-up companies. The University has also issued 265 patents and executed 307 licensing agreements during those years. Without continued investment in NIH, future statistics will not be so bright.

Our lawmakers are at a crossroads when it comes to investing in the health of our country. We are on the cusp of major breakthroughs for diseases that have reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. – cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and Alzheimer’s. If we do not make the investment now in finding cures and treatments, we will pay later. Consider that Alzheimer’s currently costs the U.S. $200 billion a year. Without a breakthrough treatment or cure, that cost will reach $1 trillion by the year 2050. This is a price our country cannot afford.

Now is the time to make up for the past decade of stagnant funding for NIH. As the old adage goes, “You do not have anything if you do not have your health.” Without a healthy funding investment for NIH, nothing else matters.

-Vivian S. Lee, MD, Ph.D, MBA is the senior vice president, University of Utah Health Sciences, CEO, University of Utah Health Care, and Dean, University of Utah School of Medicine.

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Medicine Is an Information Science: We Must Grow with the Pace of Our Data

By Harlan Krumholz,MD

Medicine is an information science. The volume, velocity, and variety of data and information that suffuses the medical profession are unprecedented and growing at a rapid pace. The medical landscape is changing from one in which medical knowledge is derived from laboratories and insights from the basic sciences to one that is supplemented by databases and insights from the experiences of patients and populations. In this environment, it is impossible for an individual to keep current with the ever-expanding knowledge base of medicine.

These changes have implications for the way we train doctors. The best doctors in the future will be able to manage streams of information, know how to access relevant information, be able to judge the validity of various sources of knowledge, and have the skills to communicate about such data and knowledge with patients. Training in how to manage this type of wide-scale data and use it effectively for each patient will be an essential skill. Continue reading Medicine Is an Information Science: We Must Grow with the Pace of Our Data

Health Wonk Review: Polar Vortex Edition, July 2014

Okay, so the vaunted summer polar vortex didn’t exactly bring the expected plummeting temperatures this week, but at least the oppressive humidity is lessened. Along with that refreshing change, some fresh thoughts from our Health Wonkers:

Over at InsureBlog, Henry Stern, LUTCF, CBC, kicks things off with a post on “SexistCare.” Stern reveals that the ACA mandates a whole raft of benefits specifically for women and children, but none for men. He wonders why mammograms are covered as preventive care, for example, but there are no corresponding provisions for prostate cancer screening. “Where’s the hue and cry?” he asks.

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Sex Cells! Addressing Sex Differences in Pre-Clinical Research

By Ann Bonham, PhD

Janine Clayton and Francis Collins published an important commentary in Nature yesterday on the need to address sex differences in preclinical research that relies on cell and animal models. They outline some of the steps the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will take to address this issue and are clearly counting on the community to join in developing these reforms.

“The NIH plans to address the issue of sex and gender inclusion across biomedical research multi-dimensionally — through programme oversight, review and policy, as well as through collaboration with stakeholders including publishers. This move is essential, potentially very powerful and need not be difficult or costly,” they write.

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All Hands on Deck: Standing Up for the Value of Research

By Ann Bonham, PhD

This blog is a fitting place to respond to the surge in activity which resulted from last week’s Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on driving innovation through federal investments in research and development; and this week’s House Energy and Commerce Committee’s 21st Century Cures Roundtable. The Wing of Zock, recognized by the American Society of Healthcare Publication Editors for its editorial excellence, is a unique destination for medical students, trainees, faculty, health care enterprise leaders, and everyone in between to exchange ideas on innovation in academic medicine.

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Of Billionaires, Jellyfish, and Pond Scum: What Really Matters in the Debate Over the Future of Research

By Ann Bonham, PhD

On March 15, 2014, The New York Times Sunday edition published a front page story by William J. Broad,“Billionaires with Big Ideas Are Privatizing American Science.”The piece drew nearly 500 comments on the Times’ website in 24 hours, debating the pros and cons of philanthropic support for research.

Philanthropic investment in research is most welcome, but I was struck that this story made the front page, over a much less flashy yet far more important story: that the nation’s entire biomedical research enterprise may be in peril from a lack of federal investment. However generous, philanthropy cannot begin to substitute for a national commitment to medical research.

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Balancing the Ethical with the Financial in Medical Research Funding

By Philip A. Cola

The United States government allocates billions of dollars annually to training physician scientists and funding medical research. But what are the ethical and motivational considerations of the scientific knowledge transfer necessary to advance the clinical practice of medicine, known as translational medicine? Naturally, when we or a family member gets sick, we want the best-trained physician scientists and the most advanced treatments available. Indeed, there is a greater need for health care services and dissemination of scientific discovery than ever before. Unfortunately, the outcomes of these studies come at an unusually heavy societal cost.

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Top 10 Posts of 2013

In case you missed them, here is a roundup of our Top 10 Most Popular Posts of 2013:

pattern_anlysis1. Proposed U.S. Allopathic and Medical Schools, by James E. Lewis, Ph.D.

???2. Matching the Unmatched: The Role of the Medical Student Career Advisor, by Marlene Welch, M.D.

3. The Primary Care Shibboleth: Debunking the Myth, by Robert E. Harbaugh, M.D. (cross-post)

Procrastinating4. Meet Our New Cartoonist: Dalya Munves

Bonham Ann5. How Will We Treat This Generation’s Henrietta Lacks? by Ann Bonham, Ph.D.

6. Health Wonk Review: Rhetorical Question Edition, by Sarah Sonies and Jennifer Salopek

Low Res Gloria Ohmart, Ed.D., MN, APRN, Assoc Dean, Simulations7. Empowered Nurse Advocates Build Effective Patient-Centered Care Teams, by Gloria Ohmart, Ed.D, MN, APRN

brainstorms8. Time’s Brill Persuasive but “Bitter Pill” Misdiagnoses Health Care Ills, by Joanne Conroy, M.D.

socialized_medicine9. Five Topics I Avoid as a Social Physician, by Bryan Vartabedian, M.D.

10. Assessing Med School Applicants’ Digital Footprints, by Bryan Vartabedian, M.D.