NIH Funding Fuels Innovation & Open Science

Two scientists working
Blog Brent L. Saunders

I felt very optimistic about the future of our Open Science model after reading that the U.S. Congress increased NIH funding of biomedical innovation by $2 billion. In a recent Wall Street Journal article NIH director Francis Collins shared his thoughts on how the increase in the agency’s funding will impact future biomedical innovation. The increase comes after more than a decade of virtually no rise in the NIH budget, despite the increase in prevalence of health challenges including growing diagnoses of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, autism and cancer. Collins emphasized that the increase will be immensely helpful for driving progress in biology which is the heart of cutting edge medical innovation.  I agree with Collins that continued support and funding increase will be crucial to sustain innovation over the long-term.

This begs the question: Is this the right time to increase funding in the NIH?  I believe it is. We’re at a point in time where new technology platforms and genomic insights can facilitate important advances at an accelerated pace. For example, projects like the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative (which will receive an additional $85 million from NIH in fiscal 2016) are bringing new insights into the human brain and behavior.

At Allergan, we are seeking to bring desperately needed solutions to seemingly difficult to solve challenges in our core therapeutic areas, including GI, eye care, CNS, women’s health, urology, aesthetics & dermatology and infectious disease. Our ability to lead and excel has been proven many times over, including with the recent approval of Vraylar. Imagine what more we could achieve with increased collaboration and pooled investment from across the healthcare ecosystem.

So, how does the increased NIH investment fit with our Open Science model?  The increased funding for the NIH will help fuel investment in great ideas at small biotech companies and academic institutions. These biotech companies are part of the new innovation ecosystem which is already responsible for more than half of all new medicine discoveries. These companies often lack the infrastructure to bring their products through expensive late stage trials or the commercial presence to recoup their R&D investments. Our Open Science model is a magnet for the great ideas in this new innovation ecosystem. By developing promising products that originate with smaller companies, our patients, stakeholders and society will benefit from the increased NIH investment.

Collins described the increase in funding as a “beacon of hope for the next generation of U.S. biomedical researchers.” I believe that we, too, can help bring renewed vigor and hope to our industry by continuing to invest in the best ideas from bright minds and teams, both inside and outside Allergan, and bringing these game-changing innovations to scale.  I believe the increased investment in the NIH will help turn this time into the era of biology.