Obama uses ROI of genome mapping to defend research funding at SOTU

Among his many calls to action in the State of the Union address, President Barack Obama defended research funding against the potential cuts from the sequester. It was gratifying to see a clear illustration of the value of government research and government funding for research.

“Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s; developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs; devising new material to make batteries 10 times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation.”

He mentioned the human genome project, mapping the human brain and 3-D printers, and said the country needs to invest in technology research at the same rate as it did at the height of the Space Race.

“Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy,” he said.

The Economic Impact of the Human Genome Project study from 2011 shows that the government’s $3.8 billion investment in the mapping project generated an economic impact of $796 billion.

“In 2010 alone, genomics directly supported more than 51,000 jobs, and indirectly supported more than 310,000 jobs, according to the Battelle study. This created $20 billion in personal income and added $67 billion to the U.S. economy.

“The government has even been repaid for its HGP spending. Last year, tax revenues returned to federal, state and local governments nearly equaled the entire 13-year investment in the HGP. Genomics-enabled industry generated more than $3.7 billion in federal taxes and $2.3 billion in U.S. state and local taxes in 2010.”



During the speech, Obama mentioned almost every progressive project you can think of: infrastructure projects, gay rights, immigration reform. He also called for universal pre-school and a ranking system for colleges.

The only specifics he offered around reducing healthcare costs were reduce subsidies to drug companies and ask more of wealthy seniors.


The strongest moment of the speech was when the president called for a vote on each of the gun-control measures he has proposed, including background checks and a ban on assault weapons and high-volume clips.

“Since Newtown, more than 1,000 birthdays, graduations and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun,” he said. “The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. Hadiya Pendleton deserves a vote. They deserve a simple vote.”


The president closed his speech with the same “we are all Americans” theme he used in the campaign. I am an Obama supporter, but most of his speech sounded like rehashed themes and empty rhetoric, even to me. This closing call to shared responsibility reminded me why I knocked on doors and made phone calls for the president. Reminding us that we are all in this together and that we have to work together to solve our common problems makes me hope that we can. Many healthcare entrepreneurs and professionals are motivated by the desire to help others, so this call to shared responsibility has a special resonance in that way too.

If you skipped the speech — or if you can’t get enough — don’t miss the Fireside Hangouts at 4:30 p.m. EST Thursday, Feb. 14. During an online conversation hosted by Google, the president will answer questions about the issues and policies laid out in the speech. Anyone can submit a question and vote on your favorites on the White House YouTube channel. You can watch the conversation live on, the White House Google+ page, or

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