Indiana and Purdue universities are well-positioned to take advantage of the $11.5 billion available for life sciences
and biotech research from the federal stimulus package.
Much of the money won’t be awarded to private business but instead to colleges, governments and
not-for-profits to create jobs and help move technologies from lab to market more quickly.
Combined, the universities could net more than
$100 million, with the IU School of Medicine requests accounting for most of the potential windfall.
The medical school is seeking grants to renovate research buildings, support existing studies, and bolster
a statewide biomedical research network it leads.
Purdue wants funding to double the size of its 18,000-square-foot Bindley Bioscience Center in
Discovery Park and to repair the heating and ventilation system at its cancer center. The university
also is requesting money for research projects.
David Johnson, CEO of BioCrossroads, a local life sciences development group that is forming teams
to capitalize on multiple parts of the stimulus package, is confident Indiana entities will capture their
fair share of funding.
"We have the right kind of faculty, the right institutions and the right programs," he said. "Overall, we will
do very, very well."
The $787 billion stimulus bill amounts to one of the biggest spending programs since World War II.
Funding requests are due by July and should be answered sometime in the fall. Most of the research money
from the bill, officially named the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will be divvied up by the
National Institutes of Health. The agency is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Organizations across the country are moving
quickly to pursue a piece of the stimulus pie, said Dave Zook, chairman of Washington, D.C.-based B&D
The arm of
the local Baker & Daniels LLP law firm consults BioCrossroads on federal affairs and tracked details of the bill
a lot of good science that this will fund," he said. "It’s jobs, too, and generally higher-paying jobs in key sectors
and economic development drivers."
The majority of IU’s funding would come in the form of $60 million in construction grants to refurbish
six buildings on the Indianapolis and Bloomington campuses.
The renovations would help the university improve research programs, such as its diabetes treatment
studies, said Dr. Anantha Shekhar, the medical school’s associate dean for translational research.
Researchers exploring the chronic disease are
spread among several buildings, making it more difficult to interact and share information, Shekhar said.
Shekhar estimates that 100 of the medical school’s
scientists will be eligible to receive as much as a total of $30 million in research funding from the
stimulus grants. The result would be a substantial boost in research the medical school conducts and
in the number of additional people it can hire.
"This could have a major impact," he said of the stimulus funds. "It is so unusual;
I’ve never seen anything like it."
In addition, IU is seeking $5 million to further fund a statewide biomedical research network it leads. The university received
a $25 million federal award nearly a year ago to launch the network that so far links with Purdue and the University of Notre
The program aims
to improve biomedical research nationwide by encouraging universities to collaborate on projects. The 38
participating universities should grow to about 60 when the system is expected to be fully operational in 2012.
IU’s $5 million request would fund research
programs at Notre Dame, where a park is under development to speed technology transfer from research
to companies. Other portions of the funding may go to connect hospitals and clinics to the university
For its part,
Purdue hopes to garner up to $12 million to double the size of its bioscience center and $5 million to make
infrastructure improvements to its cancer center.
The additional space would enable the university to expand upon its imaging capabilities involved
in cancer research, said center Director Richard Kuhn. Researchers have run out of room in the building
that opened in 1995.
the size of Purdue," he said, "the center is too small for what we’re trying to accomplish here."
Kuhn already has met with architects and expects
the addition to be completed in two to five years.
While the private sector will be unable to tap much of the funding for life sciences research,
opportunities exist for companies to partner with universities on certain projects.
The more than $11 billion available for life
sciences research contains $1.1 billion for what’s known as comparative effective studies. The effort
is part of President Obama’s plan to cut excess spending from the U.S. health care system.
Comparative effective research typically compares drugs, medical devices and procedures to help
determine treatments that benefit patients at the least cost.
Supporters of the research say physicians sometimes are unsure which treatments work best and
prescribe the most aggressive therapy, which also can be the most expensive. Critics, including Republican
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, claim government comparative effectiveness decision-making can lead to
rationing of care.
care lawyer Chris Sears, a partner at Ice Miller LLP, said the government’s decision to fund the comparative effective
research is creating a stir in certain medical circles.
"It’s very controversial in the sense that there’s some worry that these studies are going
to lead to situations where health care providers feel like they’re going to be forced into prescribing
that particular drug, or using that device," Sears said.
The 15 members of the new Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research
said they will offer advice and suggestions on research priorities and will not recommend clinical guidelines.
Results of the reviews ultimately will be available
to doctors and patients.