Independent Research Institutes Play Vital Role in Innovation Ecosystem


Science conducted at independent research institutes (IRI) is a critical part of so many of the scientific and health care advances that we all enjoy. The quality of the work at IRIs is extremely high, but the economic realities following more than a decade of stagnant National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding pose a serious threat to the future of new discoveries.

Since the recession, one out of every nine IRIs have been forced to turn off the lights permanently, leaving only 80 still in business. According to the Duke Cancer Institute, budgetary reductions along with inflation have resulted in a 20 percent decrease in purchasing power for IRIs. That’s a staggering one-fifth of total budget and would equate to a funding crisis for any other business or industry. The financial struggles facing IRIs are now detracting from their missions, which are focused solely on improving the well-being of the public.

Although the impact on the larger innovation ecosystem may not be apparent at present, it is creating a ripple effect that will be felt by all of us in the future, in the form of lost or delayed research opportunities, a smaller pool of truly creative scientists, and the demise of U.S. leadership in biomedicine to competitors, such as China, that are making enormous investments in science.

The Uniqueness of Independent Research Institutes

IRIs operate in a biomedical research ecosystem that includes colleges and research universities, independent hospitals, and independent institutes on the not-for-profit side. Corporations, foundations and governmental agencies which fund most academic research are on the other.

How good is the research conducted at the IRIs? A key metric is competition for NIH grants, which has gone from intense to extreme over the past decade. Grants are evaluated on —> Read More