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NIH funding cuts will harm Massachusetts

Posted by Chad O'Connor  January 31, 2013 11:00 AM

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As the clock ticks on Congress’ agreement to temporarily avert the fiscal cliff, we must ensure any attempt at a resolution does not include drastic cuts to investments in early stage research, the fuel of Massachusetts’ economic engine.

On the chopping block should across-the-board cuts be implemented—$2.4 billion in National Institutes of Health funding, a significant share of which comes to Massachusetts academic medical centers, research institutions and early-stage companies to undertake some of the most complicated medical research out there.

In 2012, Massachusetts received 11.3% of all NIH funding – second only behind California. Massachusetts research projects received a total of 5,105 NIH awards and a total of $2,471,024,302 in funding, $380 on a per capita basis. The city of Boston continues to beat every other city in the nation in NIH funding, extending its streak to 17 years with $23.4 billion in total awards over that time.

The NIH data also shows that Massachusetts continues to be home to the top five NIH-funded independent hospitals: Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Boston Children’s Hospital.

Those hospitals and the others in the Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals collectively employ more than 75,000 people, and have more than $12 billion in direct economic impact, making their work a driving force in the innovation economy that makes Massachusetts the envy of other states.

And here, early stage research does not just sit behind closed doors in academic labs. This research leads to start-ups and new companies. These companies catch the eyes of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, grow into larger companies, expand into larger lab spaces, and hire more Massachusetts workers. Today, the biopharma industry employs more than 53,000 people across the Commonwealth, adding up to over $6 billion of in-state payroll.

We are also growing in footprint as well: Since 2007, just under 2.4 million square feet of commercial lab space has been added—not just in Boston and Cambridge, but around the state—through new lab construction and renovations.

That growth in jobs and companies is absolutely fueled by federally supported early stage research, and cuts to NIH funding may have stark consequences for Massachusetts’ life sciences growth and preeminence well into the future. Fortunately, the Massachusetts Congressional delegation is fully aware of these consequences and have been leading the charge to protect these funds. Let’s hope their colleagues do the same.

While many industries have struggled under the problematic economic realities of the last few years, the life sciences industry in Massachusetts has grown. Industry growth moving forward, however, is not guaranteed. We must protect investments in early stage research in order to continue to be the best place in the world for innovation.

For more on what research means in Massachusetts, visit or

Bob Coughlin is President & CEO of MassBio, the state’s biotechnology trade association. John Erwin is Executive Director of the Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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