In the pecking order of clinical research, New York state comes up surprisingly short.
The state's highly competitive academic medical community no longer claims the largest share of grant money doled out by the National Institutes of Health. From 1979 to 1981, the state received an average of 15.3% of the NIH's available budget for national scientific research. That was typical for New York. In recent years, though, funding levels have dipped to about 10% of that total.
New York received $1.05 billion of the NIH's $10.5 billion budget in 1997, trailing California ($1.6 billion) and Massachusetts ($1.1 billion). New York City also has fallen in the rankings. In 1995, the last year for which NIH statistics were available, the Big Apple collected $629.1 million, falling second to Boston's $650.9 million. Researchers in third-place San Diego collected $411.4 million.
New York's academic medical community has finally realized it can accomplish more collectively than individually. The result: a 22-member partnership of teaching hospitals, healthcare systems and medical schools called the Academic Medicine Development Co., known as AMDeC. The partnership hopes to drum up research support through its lobbying arm, create a $100 million venture capital arm to fund New York-based research and increase New York's share of NIH and private funding.
In the coming months, the AMDeC will roll out a cancer research project of a magnitude that's never been seen in this city, experts say. It is the kind of effort that could help reclaim New York's pre-eminent position in the world of clinical research, drawing an estimated $200 million in grant money over 20 years.
The AMDeC's proposed cancer project includes plans for a media campaign on the importance of early detection and a standardized curriculum on the latest techniques in diagnosis and treatment.
But the most ambitious leg of the project will involve the collection of health, lifestyle and demographic data from 300,000 local residents over two decades. The AMDeC hopes to establish a massive database from which future clinical researchers will be able to tease out the genetic and environmental causes of cancer and other diseases.
The project will begin this fall with patient education, recruitment and establishment of a database. Project leaders have not yet applied for NIH funding but have discussed the project with funding officers.
"What I liken this to is, essentially, the Manhattan Project, where the idea was you had a goal that no one has ever achieved before, (but) everyone understood this was a worthwhile goal," says Francis Barany, a professor of microbiology at Cornell University in New York.
Setting politics aside is never easy. But the AMDeC realizes its best hope for the future is to capitalize on the concentration of research centers in the city.
"It confirms that if you can create the kind of big science projects that go beyond what any researcher can do in his or her own institution, they really do want to be involved," says Maria Mitchell, the AMDeC's president. Personal issues, she says, get put aside>