Investing in America’s Health

David I Meyer PhD
President and CEO of LA BioMed, an independent nonprofit research institute located on the campus of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, and the Chair of the Los Angeles County Biosciences Task Force.

For more than 60 years, the researchers at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed) have been pioneering the medical advances that are saving lives and improving the health of people in the region and around the world.

Little, if any, of this would be possible without the support of the federal government through the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Research at LA BioMed led to the development of a low-cost treatment that has prevented blindness in hundreds of thousands of children in developing nations. The South Bay research institute’s investigators established a testing and outreach program that has virtually eliminated new cases of the deadly Tay-Sachs disease in high-risk populations.

LA BioMed researchers developed artificial lung fluids that saved the lives of literally millions of premature babies, and they have contributed to countless scientific advancements that are improving the health and well-being of members of our community, our nation and world-wide.

As the home to all of these discoveries and more, LA BioMed would not exist in its current state if not for funding from the NIH. Los Angeles’ largest independent research institute receives about $30 million in annual NIH funding.

In turn, LA BioMed generates about $150 million in economic activity and more than 1,500 jobs.  In California alone, the NIH has fueled an industry that employs more than 267,000 Californians with an average annual wage of nearly $71,500.

Unfortunately, the future of this research and its economic contributions are in question because the U.S. House Appropriations Committee has proposed cutting nearly 20% from the NIH budget.

NIH funding has been at a standstill for years, with increases not even keeping pace with inflation.  Now, we are at risk of losing a whole generation of researchers to other fields as they despair of securing the funding they need.

It’s time to take a stand for our nation’s health and for the future of an important scientific endeavor right here in Los Angeles. We urge the House Appropriations Committee to reinstate NIH funding to current levels and consider increases for the future.

Over its 70-year history, NIH-funded research has led to a 60% decline in deaths from heart disease and a 70% decrease in deaths from stroke. These and other medical advances have saved tens of thousands of lives, while new prevention methods and treatments have saved countless more.

In recent years, NIH-funded advances have led to a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer and a test to predict breast cancer recurrence. NIH-funded research helped identify genetic markers for mental illness, improved asthma treatments and, with help from researchers at LA BioMed, eliminated HIV transmissions between mother and child in Los Angeles County.

Despite these important medical advances, recent federal budget cuts that are part of sequestration slashed the NIH’s budget by $1.7 billion in the first year alone. And now the House’s budget allocation proposes to slash funding by three times that amount, turning back the clock on our nation’s medical research efforts to the 1990s.

Americans want cures, not cuts.  LA BioMed and the nation’s medical schools and teaching hospitals urge Congress and the administration to work together to craft a bipartisan balanced deficit reduction plan that preserves the life-saving research funded by the NIH.  Research interrupted by budget cuts, even for a few weeks, may mean years lost — years that could mean life or death for patients for whom medical research right now is their only hope.

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