From The Scientist: Public Concern for Private Funding.
More money generally means more science, and vice versa. But the source of the money – whether from public or industry well-springs – may be as important in determining the type of research that gets funded as well as the direction that research may take. During the last several years, the percentage of industry funding relative to public funding has grown (see Box). For example, industry funding of clinical trials rose from $4.0 billion in 1994 to $14.2 billion in 2003 (in real terms) while federal proportions devoted to basic and applied research were unchanged, according to a study1 last fall in the Journal of the American Medical Association. This trend, according to some life science policy experts, threatens the independence of basic research. Others, however, see a move towards an increase in industry funding relative to public funding as a sign of the health of scientific enterprise.
Well the rise of Industry based research can never “replace” the NIH (or other funding agencies like Howard Huges). Biotech and pharma just don’t do much basic research. It’s not profitable. The increase in funding probably reflects a greater investment in applied research. That’s where all the new drugs are coming from. Yes there are concerns about “who” will be financing big clinical trials, but in the rest of biomedical sciences the only real danger is the recent cuts in federal spending:
Science projects requiring funding seem to be plentiful. While approximately 40% of total applications for research submitted to the NIH are approved as worthy of funding, only 10% to 20% receive NIH funding, notes Mary Woolley, president of Research!America, an Alexandria, Va.-based funding advocacy organization whose members include universities, companies, and foundations. The amount funded, however, may be dropping. While the NIH budget doubled between 1998 and 2003, the fiscal year 2007 budget is expected to be $28.6 billion, a 0.1% decrease from the previous year, or a 3.8% decrease after adjustment for inflation, according to a commentary in the April issue of the The New England Journal of Medicine. NEJM authors say this is the first budgeted reduction in NIH funding since 1970.
Yes and we should all worry about it.