Similarities and differences in philanthropic and federal support for medical research in the United States: an analysis of funding by nonprofits in 2006-2008

Acad Med. 2012 Nov;87(11):1574-81. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31826762f4.


Purpose: The medical community currently has no detailed source of information on philanthropic research funding. The authors sought to identify trends in research funding by members of the Health Research Alliance (HRA), a consortium of nonprofit funders of biomedical research, and compare findings with research support from the federal government.

Method: Thirty-two HRA members uploaded information about grants with start dates in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Data were collected about each grant, investigator, and recipient institution. Disease categorization codes were assigned by a computer process similar to that used by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Results: In the three years under study, HRA members awarded 9,934 grants, totaling $2,712,418,254 in research and training support. Grant funding increased by 26% between 2006 and 2008. In contrast, NIH research spending increased by only 3% over the same time. Fifty-six percent of HRA grant dollars supported research projects, whereas 30% supported career development and training. During the same period, more than two-thirds of NIH grant dollars supported research projects, although NIH invested proportionally less in career development and training (7%). The largest proportion of HRA grant dollars addressed cancer, followed by diabetes and genetics. Sixty-three percent of HRA-supported investigators were men and 36% were women; 66% of investigators were white, 32% Asian, and fewer than 2% black.

Conclusions: These results indicate that nonprofit organizations play an important role in developing careers and advancing research in significant disease areas such as cancer and diabetes, and in basic science areas such as genetics.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / economics
  • Biomedical Research / trends*
  • Female
  • Financing, Government / economics
  • Financing, Government / trends*
  • Forecasting
  • Fund Raising / economics
  • Fund Raising / trends*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • National Institutes of Health (U.S.)*
  • Organizations, Nonprofit* / economics
  • Research Support as Topic / economics
  • Research Support as Topic / trends*
  • United States