Today, nearly one in eight American adults has diabetes, and diagnosed diabetes costs the United States $245 billion each year.
By 2050, if our current course as a nation continues, one in three American adults will have diabetes. The cost to this country — in lives, lost productivity and hard dollars — will be an enormous personal and societal burden that could overwhelm our healthcare system and bankrupt our nation.
America has never faced anything like this before, and we are working to ensure that this frightening future never comes to fruition. Researchers are making important progress in the fight against this disease, but frankly, it's not fast enough, it's not dramatic enough, it's not good enough. There's a reason for that: It's not funded enough.
The Next Generation of Researchers May Be Lost Forever
The disparity in diabetes funding has a limiting effect on innovations and breakthroughs — in prevention, diagnosis, treatment and ultimately, needed cures. And the reason for this is simple: it leads to a disparity in research talent. Larger budgets attract a greater pool of talented individuals from which to choose. We simply can't compete with funding that is three-to-five times greater.
But there's another problem: age.
Research Dollars Bypass New Talent
|NIH First R01** Recipient||42|
|NIH R01 Recipients Overall||51|
Due to resource constraints, younger scientists are often locked out by scientists who've already done their breakthrough work. The NIH trend toward funding established researchers is a relatively recent development. In 1980, the average age of a first R01 recipient was 35. But today, early-career researchers — at the peak of their creativity — are finding research dollars scarce. Many young, brilliant individuals, facing substantial debt from education, are abandoning a research career to pursue other avenues that provide stability and security for themselves and their families.
The lack of funding and resultant lack of new talent are conspiring to threaten progress in diabetes research. We must reverse both trends.