Each of us has been touched by disease, whether as a patient, a caregiver, or a loved one. From cancer to stroke to opioid addiction to Alzheimer’s disease, no community or family has been left unaffected.

Every 65 seconds, someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a stroke, and more than one-third of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetimes. But discoveries emerging from NIH-funded research have led to new ways to treat, diagnose, and prevent illness, improving health and extending and saving lives.

The return on investment in medical research is exponential. Consider these examples of the impact of NIH-funded therapies on the health and well-being of patients:

  • Thanks to recent advancements in gene therapy and decades of NIH-funded research, sickle cell disease is now the first common genetic disorder to have been cured in some patients.


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Steady funding increases for the NIH are essential to driving progress against deadly and debilitating diseases, including:
  • NIH supported years of basic research and clinical studies which produced a cancer therapy breakthrough – immunotherapy – a type of treatment that unleashes the body’s immune system to fight cancer. To date, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved more than 30 different immunotherapies for patients with different types of cancers.
  • In fiscal year 2019, the NIH-funded $945 million in research to tackle the national opioid overdose crisis through the Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative. The HEAL initiative supports research aimed at improving treatments for chronic pain, opioid use prevention and overdose, and sustainable recovery.
  • The NIH is currently supporting 234 active clinical trials on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. These prevention and intervention trials explore a wide variety of drug and mechanistic targets.

But medical advances don’t start and stop with the flip of a switch. They require continued year-over-year investments. 


Live longer, healthier, more productive lives.

Scientific breakthroughs generated by NIH-supported research are behind many of the gains the U.S. has enjoyed in health and longevity over the last century. Average life expectancy has nearly doubled since 1900, cancer deaths have dropped by 29 percent over 30 years, and HIV has been transformed from a death sentence into a manageable chronic disease. But sustained progress requires sustained investment.

Curb future healthcare spending.

There is no greater economic catalyst than saving, extending, and improving lives. Consider that Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias will cost the nation $305 billion in 2020 and, without a breakthrough treatment or cure, that cost will grow to $1.1 trillion in 2050. As the baby boomer generation ages, the strain on our health care system, families, and federal spending (CBO: The 2019 Long-Term Budget Outlook, p. 20) – particularly through Medicare and Medicaid – threatens to bankrupt the nation.

Protect against international health threats.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, NIH institutes and centers rapidly ramped-up research on therapies, diagnostics, and vaccines, coordinating efforts across U.S. and foreign governments, academia, and industry through the ACTiv partnership. Together, they worked to rapidly run quality clinical trials to determine which candidate medicines may reduce suffering and death across the world. NIH also contributed to the pandemic response by speeding development of novel diagnostic tests through the RADx program and evaluating antibody tests, all as quickly as possible.

For more information, read a conversation on Covid vaccine research and development between NIH Directory Francis Collins and Dr. John Mascola, Director of the Vaccine Research Center at NIAID.

Maintain global leadership.

The U.S. biomedical enterprise, led by the NIH, sets the standard for discovery and innovation excellence for the rest of the world. But while global investments in science are increasing, the United States’ share is shrinking. In 2000, nearly 40 cents of each dollar used for R&D was spent in the U.S. By 2017, the U.S. portion was down to 25 cents. Soon, China will outspend the U.S. dollar for dollar in R&D.

The cost is billions, the return is trillions, and it is priceless to patients and their families.