An editorial written by National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci, MD, about the need to invest in biomedical research both domestically and internationally, was published in the April 10 issue of Science. The NIH leaders say the nation “has a vital interest in the health of people around the globe, rooted in an enduring tradition of humanitarian concern as well as in enlightened self-interest. Engagement in global health protects the nation’s citizens, enhances the economy, and advances U.S. interests abroad.” An example is the recent Ebola outbreak that originated in West Africa, but made its way to the United States.
Now, in the face of serious fiscal constraints, the idea has reemerged from some congressional leaders and disease constituency groups to more closely align NIH funding for disease research with disease burden in the United States. Although the nation must maintain robust research support for diseases that cause illness and death among large numbers of Americans, Collins and Fauci argue it would be unwise to deemphasize diseases that exact their largest toll elsewhere in the world. In closing, they say it is “imperative that the nation sustain momentum and work with its global partners to deliver the fruits of global research to the people who need them most, both at home and abroad. Without such a commitment, we may miss opportunities to curtail or even eliminate important diseases such as AIDS and also risk the resurgence of major global health threats such as drug-resistant bacteria, tuberculosis, and malaria, for which new interventions are badly needed.”