What does Trump have in common with the National Institutes of Health? Patents.
In a budget proposal generating a quick rebuke on Capitol Hill, President Trump calls for a 22% cut to the National Institutes of Health—a move that would take $7.7 billion away from research on diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer and heart disease. This is an unfortunate request. The NIH is one of our most strategically important federal assets.
Rather than hacking away at the topline budget, the administration should play to the innovative strengths of NIH. This may mean a more mission-oriented approach—using science to help create new sectors and fields. But it could also mean a more market-oriented approach that prioritizes the development of high-quality patents.
In a new Manhattan Institute report, we find that NIH does particularly well in this regard: Its patent portfolio produces 20.4% more market value than average patents, with every $100 million in NIH funding associated with $598 million in downstream private research and development. For some of NIH’s most productive programs, total downstream R&D is as high as $3.3 billion for every $100 million in grant funding.
Patents aren’t everything—scientific knowledge is the main product of public R&D. But slashing away so much potential new technology via broad budget cuts will endanger discoveries that serve as the commercial foundation for new companies, jobs and exports in biotech and the life sciences.
By contrast, Mr. Trump’s budget proposal would....
Michael J. Kalutkiewicz, M.A., has 15 years of experience in public affairs and political research, focusing predominantly on science and technology policy at the federal level.
Richard L. Ehman, M.D., is professor of radiology at the Mayo Clinic and an emeritus member of the Mayo Clinic Board of Trustees.