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NIH director meets with biotech leaders

By Will Parson

Contributor

In an effort to accelerate local biomedical innovation, the director of the National Institute of Health joined Rep. Brian Bilbray at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in La Jolla on Saturday, meeting with leaders from San Diego’s biotechnology industry to share ideas across public and private sectors.

Dr. Francis Collins, the NIH director, called San Diego a “hotbed of exciting biomedical research” and said the meeting was intended to "...build partnerships to speed up the process of taking really exciting science innovations that are happening right now and move them forward for clinical benefit.”

"(The NIH) supports almost a billion dollars of research here in the San Diego area, which has many exciting consequences both in terms of medical advances and in terms of stimulating the economy in a big way,” said Collins, who also spoke Friday at the American Academy for the Advancement of Science conference downtown.

According to Collins, 1,180 investigators in 92 different institutions in San Diego received funds from NIH grants last year, totaling $923 million dollars.

“It’s great to be here to hear more about what plans people have,” Collins said.

During a tour of the Sanford-Burnham Institute, Collins saw some of the work being done toward the understanding and treatment of diseases, with advances in areas such as stem cell research, drug discovery and the development of robotic capabilities that Dr. John Reed, president and CEO of the Sanford-Burnham Institute, said benefit the entire nation.

The Sanford-Burnham Institute has been a beneficiary of the economic stimulus and has received an additional $18 million dollars this year, Reed said, “That’s creating additional jobs, allowing us to expand our work force.”

Bilbray said he was excited to see the NIH function in its role as a bridge between public and private research efforts. “Now with the director here, we’re able to show off just all the great miracles that all our merlins are creating here in San Diego,” Bilbray said. “When he sees a request from San Diego, we hope he remembers this trip.”