10 years ago, many West Virginians had to leave the state to get treatment for certain diseases, illnesses, or other medical issues. That is not the case today thanks in part to research and advancements supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

If you are not familiar with NIH and the work it is supporting right here in West Virginia, the NIH is the largest biomedical research agency in the world, and it is funded by the federal government with the primary mission of improving health and bringing hope to patients and families affected by disease. In fact, I have heard NIH described as the beacon for medical research in our nation.

The NIH is also a driver of economic growth, supporting jobs and the purchase of goods and materials, funding more than $92.89 billion in economic activity last year – or $2.46 of economic activity for every $1 of research funding, according to the United for Medical Research 2024 Update, “NIH’s Role in Sustaining the U.S. Economy, FY2023.”

I serve as the Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS), which oversees funding for NIH. In that role, I’ve had the chance to work very closely with them over the years and bring various leaders from the agency to see the good work happening in West Virginia, as well as the challenges we face. I invited NIH Director Dr. Monica Bertagnolli, M.D. to West Virginia for this reason. Together, we made a number of visits at WVU Health Sciences and witnessed proudly the innovative research, talented researchers, and advancements happening right here in West Virginia. Much of this was made possible by the partnership that has been fostered with NIH over the years. From cancer detection and treatment, to the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease and Substance Use Disorder, universities throughout West Virginia—particularly WVU—are making significant contributions to biomedical research.

Seeing first-hand the initiatives being worked on in West Virginia, such as West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s (WVCTSI) new mobile unit, which will allow individuals all over the state to participate in clinical trials for new treatments, showed the true promise of what continued investment in the state’s biomedical research programs can bring.

While the impact of NIH funding is important to every state, it is especially important in rural states like West Virginia where the population and economy is smaller and there are fewer organizations conducting biomedical research. Congress and NIH understand this and also realize the promise that institutions in these states can play in the research, prevention, and treatment of disease.

In 1993, Congress created the NIH Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program to provide research institute funding to states that historically received little federal research and development funding. As a result of this and other funding from NIH, institutions big and small across West Virginia have received resources and have been able to move us as a state and nation forward to new treatments and cures for diseases. At West Virginia University (WVU), this program has been instrumental in developing robust and world-class research in neuroscience, cancer, stroke and vision science. From 2016 to 2022, West Virginia received a total of $267 million in NIH research awards, which resulted in $549 million in new economic activity and over 3,660 jobs. This funding over the years has enabled institutions in West Virginia, like WVU, to build their capacity and has led to medical breakthroughs and improvements.

While these numbers are important and impressive, what NIH means to West Virginia goes far beyond economics. Each of these dollars are going towards making individuals and families across the state healthier. At institutions across West Virginia, including WVU, progress across a variety of research fields is being made – whether it be cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s, or other diseases and conditions that are far too prevalent in our state and nation.

Dr. Bertagnolli understands this. The partnership we have built—with not just each other, but with NIH as a whole throughout my time in the U.S. Senate—has and will continue to lead to important research advancements and medical breakthroughs that can serve as a model for research happening nationwide.

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U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) is the Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS). Capito also serves as the vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, the fifth ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate.