Chief Executive praises the work, and workers, of the National Institutes of Health

Thursday - 10/1/2009, 7:13am EDT

WFED's Amy Morris

Scientific research does more than just save lives. The work also creates jobs. That, at least, is what the Obama Administration is banking on, as the President toured a lab at the National Institutes of Health, and heralded $5 billion dollars in government grants to fight cancer, autism, and heart disease.

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By Amy Morris
Executive Editor
FederalNewsRadio

President Barack Obama at NIH praised the work of director Francis Collins and the determination of the tens of thousands of federal researchers throughout the facility, saying that the work they do "is not easy."

The President says that scientific research is actually a "job-creating engine," and that the billions in grant money will do more than just save lives. The grants also mean jobs.

"Tens of thousands of jobs conducting research and manufacturing and supplying medical equipment and building and modernizing laboratories and research facilities all across America. That's also what the Recovery Act is about. It's not just about creating make-work jobs. Its about creating jobs that will make a lasting difference for our future."

It was by design that the President made his announcement at NIH. He used the forum to remind people about how and why NIH was founded, and the concerns that existed then are very similar to concerns that exist today. He quoted a speech given by President Franklin D. Roosevelt given nearly 70 years ago at the dedication of NIH.

"He said, 'neither the American people nor their government intends to socialize medical practice any more than they plan to socialize industry. In American life, the family doctor, the general practitioner performs a service which we rely upon and which we trust as a nation, and there can be no substitute for the personal relationship between doctor and patient, which is a source of strength of our medical practice in our land.' FDR was being accused of a government takeover of health care. But he thought NIH was a pretty good idea."

The $5 billion awards are in the form of grants, meaning that institutions and researchers will have to apply for them.

More than a billion dollars will go to genomic research -- studying the DNA map to find causes of diseases, especially cancer, and potential new treatments.

President Obama says government has always played a role in such research, and that federal workers at NIH have a lot to be proud of.

At our best, we've never allowed our fears to overwhelm our hopes for a brighter future. That's been at the heart of the work at NIH work for decades. It was here that Dr. Roy Hertz developed the first successful cure of metastatic cancer through chemotherapy. There was a group of women who would have surely died began to get better. It was here that Dr. Nina Braunwald - the first woman ever to be board certified in cardiothoratic surgery - conducted some of the earliest operations to replace heart valves. It was here in the years after President Roosevelt's visit that polio vaccines were tested to end the scourge that affected millions, including the president that helped make the research possible. We can only imagine the new discoveries that will flow from the investments we make today. Breakthroughs in medical research take far more than the occasional flash of brilliance - as important as that can be. Progress takes time, it takes hard work, it can be unpredictable. It can require a willingness to take risks. Going down blind alleys. Figuring out what doesn't work is sometimes as important as figuring out what does. All of this needs the support of government.

President Obama says that NIH research should focus on the public health, not investors or corporate owners, and that the five billion dollar boost is the single largest boost to biomedical research in history.

He says some research takes time and doesn't lend itself to quick profit, which is one reason why NIH was founded.

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On the Web:

FederalNewsRadio - Obama says $5B in grants will aid medical research

FederalNewsRadio - NIH and the VA hold golden job opportunities in government

National Institutes of Health - nih.gov

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