CEO Club Briefing

NIH Funding

Excerpt from remarks to Boston College Chief Executives Club  

May 18, 2017

Len, you were at a White House briefing not long ago. This is the first year in which China will spend more on biomedical research than the United States. You understand very well the pipeline from the NIH to academic medical centers to biopharma entrepreneurs in the marketplace. What can we do as leaders to ensure that the United States stays at the forefront of biomedical research?

I think we’re going to have to—I don’t know if this can be led in the same way as it can a groundswell—somehow the public has to demand that we continue to do what we’re the best at doing, that we really are the best in biomedical. Our biomedical research complex is the best in the world l truly the best in the world. I’m sure people come from all over the world to be at your hospital. They use our drugs. They want to see how we give stuff. 

People criticize our medical care l it’s not that efficient. Efficiency isn’t the only variable that you can measure. But somehow we have to convince the people l because that’s only the thing that affects politicians, I think, is that the people demand that we have a robust system that includes a National Institutes of Health that is extremely well funded, that is investing in basic research. 

You cannot always invest in directed research. Sitting down and coming up with a cure for something doesn’t work unless there are people who are just following science at a basic level, and then the a-ha moment comes that maybe what happened in that worm study I was doing leads me to understand why people are getting demented. You can’t predict that stuff. That’s why we need this NIH system. I was willing to go down and tell the president that. I just think that it would be a tragic mistake to underfund that.