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US risks losing out to Asia in medical research, U-M team warns
Date:8/23/2012

Medical research saves lives, suffering and dollars while also creating jobs and economic activity. The United States has long led the world, with hundreds of thousands of jobs and marketable discoveries generated by government research funding every year. Top students from around the world come here for training -- and often stay to help fuel medical innovation.

Now, warns a team of researchers in the New England Journal of Medicine, the U.S. risks losing out to Asia as the hub of medical discovery.

The result, they caution, could be a "brain drain" of top young researchers, and the loss of untold discoveries and economic activity. The authors are two physician researchers from the University of Michigan Medical School and VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, and an American researcher who left the U.S. for better job prospects in Singapore.

They compiled data on five Asian countries China, India, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan that are all boosting their government support for medical research right now. All five have a long-term plan for increased support for such research, as part of efforts to boost their national economies and world standing.

By contrast, American medical scientists and physician researchers face almost certain cuts to federal research funding.

At best, the authors say, funding for the National Institutes of Health which supports most U.S. medical research will fail to keep pace with inflation next year.

At worst, if the federal budget falls off the 'fiscal cliff' of automatic cuts, American medical research spending will fall by 8 percent, with thousands of researchers cut off from funding. One estimate says this could cost the U.S. $4.5 billion in economic activity. There are also proposals to cut entire health research agencies.

By contrast, China has increased spending on medical research by 67 percent, South Korea by 24 percent, India by 15 percent, Singapore
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Contact: Kara Gavin
kegavin@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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