WASHINGTON – Sequella Inc. CEO Carol Nacy knows the value of National Institutes of Health grants to survival of small businesses.
Her 12-employee Rockville company has received six NIH grants since its founding in 1997 for research on tuberculosis, including $2.7 million in October. Nacy said many companies owe some of their success to NIH grants, and the more money available to them, the better.
Which is why Nacy, like many Maryland officials, was enthusiastic about President Bush’s pledge last week to continue a plan to double the NIH budget between fiscal 1998 and fiscal 2003, to $27.2 billion.
“We love it,” she said. “They are giving away larger amount of money, and I know of very few small companies that don’t live on the fruit of grants at the beginning.”
While none of the new money has been earmarked for Maryland — or for anything, for that matter — federal and local government officials agreed that increased spending by NIH is good for both private and public entities in the state.
“An expanded NIH is especially good news for a state like Maryland,” said NIH spokesman Donald Ralbovksi.
Maryland has become a leader in biomedical research, with NIH headquartered in Bethesda, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and dozens of leading biotechnology companies concentrated in Montgomery County and Baltimore City.
“Maryland is the third-largest biotechnology hub in the nation,” said Amy Finan, director of the technology program of Montgomery County’s Department of Economic Development. She said Maryland has over 300 life-science organizations, with about 200 in Montgomery County alone.
It is also the fifth-highest ranking state in terms of NIH grants. Maryland researchers received $860 million in grants in fiscal 2000, up from slightly over $500 million in fiscal 1995. Those amounts do not include funds spent within the agency.
By contrast, Washington, D.C., received $186 million in fiscal 2000, and Virginia received only $210.8 million.
Johns Hopkins received more grant dollars in 2000, over $419 million, than any other institution or company in the nation. Grants to its medical school have grown from $188 million in fiscal 1994 to $302.7 million in fiscal 2000.
The University of Maryland School of Medicine’s grants went from $52.7 million to $81.8 million in the same period, helping boost Baltimore to fifth place among cities receiving NIH grant dollars.
“The increase in NIH funding is very important to Baltimore,” said Rep. Benjamin Cardin, D-Baltimore. “Johns Hopkins is the largest private-sector employer in the city, and I expect it to be expanded.”
The $2.75 billion increase proposed for NIH in the fiscal 2002 budget would be the largest ever for the 113-year-old institution. Agency officials declined to comment on how the new money might be used, but it likely would mean an increase in grants, which have risen every year since 1977.
Grants, which make up more than 80 percent of the NIH budget, have more than doubled from $7 billion in fiscal 1990 to $14.4 billion in fiscal 2000. The agency’s overall budget has grown from $11.3 billion in fiscal 1994 to $20.4 billion in 2001.
Maryland also will benefit because much of the NIH is in the state. Besides the Bethesda campus, NIH facilities in the state include the National Human Genome Research Institute in Baltimore and the National Cancer Institute at Frederick.
“The fact that it’s headquartered here in Bethesda is an additional good sign for the Maryland economy,” Ralbovski said.
There are over 1,600 researchers on the main campus and about 16,000 employees in the Montgomery County district of Rep. Connie Morella, R-Bethesda.
The NIH is also building the Bayview Research Center in Baltimore. Cardin’s office said the facility, which will house the NIH’s Institute on Aging and Institute on Drug Abuse, is scheduled to open in 2005 and promises as many as 5,000 new jobs.
“For the foreseeable future, Baltimore and Maryland will be receiving major portions of the funds,” predicted former Rep. John E. Porter, R- Ill. He was identified by the NIH web site as one of the “godfathers” of the five-year budget increase.
“Money expended in biomedical research is repaid many times over in health care cost savings,” Porter said. “It’s the best-spent money in all of government.”