March 01, 2012

Health R&D in New York: Extending lives and driving the economy

Senior Program Assistant

Research!America, a member of the GHTC, recently conducted analyses in target states to measure the health and economic impact of global health research and development (R&D), highlighting its benefits for states across the nation and strengthening the evidence base for Congress’ support of federal investments in global health R&D. This is the sixth and last post in a series.

"If you want to live longer and healthier than the average American, then come to New York City,” Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced in December 2011. The city’s life expectancy for a 40-year old in 2009 was 82, compared with 80.1 for the rest of the United States. Babies born in New York City in 2009 will see an increase of nearly three years on their life spans, versus 1.5 years nationwide. With the leadership of the mayor, who has an outstanding track record on public health leadership, and the dedication of its health commissioners, New York City has significantly brought down its rates of tuberculosis (TB) and stabilized the growth of new HIV infections over the last two decades.

This leadership in public health also translates into a strong commitment to R&D. New York City has the world’s largest concentration of major academic research centers and the largest bioscience workforce of any city in the United States. The state is home to seven of the top 50 American research universities and attracts increased investment in the sciences with a 9 percent corporate tax break for R&D facilities. Combined with the commitment of its elected officials—and economic drivers like the new applied sciences campus, NYCTech, on Roosevelt Island—New York institutions are creating partnerships that transform how we do the business of health research. It is projected that NYCTech could in turn provide up to $150 million in seed money for up to 600 new local start-ups, which could generate an estimated 30,000 new jobs.

Partnerships for health R&D contribute to the health and economy of New York, and the effects of these partnerships are felt around the world. After the National Institutes of Health, New York’s International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) has the largest AIDS vaccine development program and partners with more than 50 other institutions to conduct research and clinical trials. The Global Alliance for TB Drug Development (TB Alliance), also headquartered in the Big Apple, manages the largest, most comprehensive portfolio of TB drug candidates ever. With the first cases of totally drug resistant TB identified in India earlier this year, identifying improved strategies to control TB has never been more critical.

New York City has the world’s largest concentration of major academic research centers and the largest bioscience workforce of any city in the United States. Photo credit: PATH

Public-private partnerships like IAVI and the TB Alliance rely in part on support from the federal government. Unfortunately, President Obama’s proposed fiscal year 2013 budget raises concerns for health R&D. “Public funding is evaporating at a time of tremendous opportunity. We’re on the brink of delivering potentially revolutionary new treatments for tuberculosis, with similar great promise in other areas of global health,” said Mel Spiegelman, president of TB Alliance.

Former New York City Health Commissioner and current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden agrees with the need for sustained federal investment to protect the health and safety of Americans at home and abroad. “There are still far too many people who die from conditions that are easily preventable. Continued investments will help millions more live healthy and productive lives while helping to protect our own country from health threats,” he said.