How Do You Measure Return on Investment in Medicine?

Francis Collins: we need to be prepared at any moment to defend the choices we’ve made as having had the best chance of benefiting real people out there who are counting on the NIH to use their money wisely.  

How Do You Measure Return on Investment in Medicine?

Return on investment is always an interesting question when it comes to medical research.  What would you call “return?”  Is it that you’ve published a certain number of papers?  Well, that is one metric I suppose and that they are in high impact journals, that’s another metric.  But really what we’re about is trying to help people. 


So the real return you’re looking for is clinical benefits, diagnostics, therapeutics, preventive measures.  The lead time on those is often measured in years.  And so it may be quite difficult to assess when you’re just looking at a program that have been underway for three or four years. How does it measure up in terms of what you’re getting for your dollars compared to some other program that similarly is sort of in an early stage of moving into clinical benefits? 

The NIH tries to do that to the extent we can and I think we should.  This is taxpayer money, the taxpayers believe in us as the place that is going to make that next breakthrough.  They want to be assured that we’re using those dollars in the most effective way possible.  Sometimes people think NIH is just playing around in the lab.  I can assure that’s not the view of people here, but we need to be prepared at any moment to defend the choices we’ve made as having had the best chance of benefiting real people out there who are counting on us to use their money wisely.  It is their money. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Massive 'Darth Vader' isopod found lurking in the Indian Ocean

The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.

A close up of Bathynomus raksasa

SJADE 2018
Surprising Science
  • A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
  • It is the first known giant isopod from the Indian Ocean.
  • The finding extends the list of giant isopods even further.
Keep reading Show less

Is it ethical to pay people to get vaccinated?

It could lead to a massive uptake in those previously hesitant.

Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
Coronavirus

A financial shot in the arm could be just what is needed for Americans unsure about vaccination.

Keep reading Show less

Every 27.5 million years, the Earth’s heart beats catastrophically

Geologists discover a rhythm to major geologic events.

Credit: desertsolitaire/Adobe Stock
Surprising Science
  • It appears that Earth has a geologic "pulse," with clusters of major events occurring every 27.5 million years.
  • Working with the most accurate dating methods available, the authors of the study constructed a new history of the last 260 million years.
  • Exactly why these cycles occur remains unknown, but there are some interesting theories.
Keep reading Show less
Surprising Science

Galactic wind from early universe detected

Researchers discovered a galactic wind from a supermassive black hole that sheds light on the evolution of galaxies.

Quantcast