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Scientific Discovery and the Future of Medicine
January 13, 2015

Exceptional Opportunities in Medical Science: A View From the National Institutes of Health

Author Affiliations
  • 1National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland
JAMA. 2015;313(2):131-132. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.16736

As the world’s largest source of biomedical research funding, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been advancing understanding of health and disease for more than a century. Scientific and technological breakthroughs that have arisen from NIH-supported research account for many of the gains that the United States has seen in health and longevity.

For example, an infant born today in the United States can look forward to an average lifespan of about 79 years—nearly 3 decades longer than one born in 1900. Age-adjusted death rates from cardiovascular disease have declined by more than 70% since 1963, with more than half of that decline coming in the last 20 years.1 Meanwhile, cancer death rates have decreased about 1% annually for the past 15 years.2 National Institutes of Health–funded research has also led to development of vaccines to protect against an array of life-threatening diseases, including influenza, meningitis, and cervical cancer. As compelling as these facts are, emerging scientific advances provide the opportunity to go even further and faster: this is a time of unprecedented promise in medical research.