Obama announces $5 billion in research grants for National Institutes of Health

President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced $5 billion in funds from the economic stimulus package would go to medical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Obama called the 12,000 grants the “single largest boost to biomedical research in history” and said they would “create tens of thousands of jobs over the next two years.”

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He also took a shot at former President George W. Bush, saying that in recent years “we've seen our leadership slipping as our scientific integrity” was sometimes “compromised.”

During his 2008 campaign, Obama criticized the Bush White House for allowing politics to interfere with decisions on science. He has promised to usher in a new era, and months ago reversed Bush administration limits on embroyonic stem-cell research.

The funding announced on Wednesday is dedicated to exploring the cancer genome atlas, which NIH Director Francis Collins said would create “a quantum leap in our understanding of cancer.”

“This ambitious effort promises to open new windows into the biology of all cancers, transform approaches to cancer research and raise the curtain on a more personalized era of cancer care,” Collins said. He said it was an excellent example of how the stimulus “is fueling discoveries that will fundamentally change the way we fight disease and improve our lives.”

The $787 billion stimulus set aside $100 billion for investments in science and technology, the White House said, part of building “a foundation for the innovation economy of the future.”

The grants will fund research in areas like heart disease, autism, HIV-AIDS, H1N1 flu and cancer, the White House said.

“We know that this kind of investment will also lead to new jobs: tens of thousands of jobs conducting research, manufacturing and supplying medical equipment, and building and modernizing laboratories and research facilities,” Obama said. “I’ve long said the goal of the Recovery Act was not to create make-work jobs, but jobs making a difference for our future. There is no better example than the jobs we will produce or preserve through the grants we are announcing this morning.”

Republicans blasted Obama’s announcement as “the height of hypocrisy,” arguing that Obama's gift to government-run medical researchers comes coupled with a “huge tax on private-sector health innovations.”

“There is certainly a role for the federal government in medical research,” Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said in a statement. “But government should not punish the private sector by taxing new medical innovations and tools that can help improve care and save lives. The private sector isn’t a cash cow the president can use to finance his government-run healthcare experiment.”