Dwindling research funds a threat to innovation

By Kaylen Auer
PBN Web Editor

In October, the Science Coalition published a study that identified 100 U.S. companies that trace their roots to federally funded university research and highlighted their role in strengthening innovation and bolstering the economy. More

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Focus: TECHNOLOGY

Dwindling research funds a threat to innovation

By Kaylen Auer
PBN Web Editor

Posted 2/3/14

In October, the Science Coalition published a study that identified 100 U.S. companies that trace their roots to federally funded university research and highlighted their role in strengthening innovation and bolstering the economy.

All but one of the firms – an education company in Pittsford, N.Y., derived their success from research-based, technological innovation. Two of the companies featured in the report were Nabsys Inc. and Tivorsan Pharmaceuticals, both biotech firms based in Providence and founded by researchers at Brown University whose research received federal funding.

Nabsys in particular serves as a textbook example of how federal funding – which has been dwindling and faces even more cuts in the coming years due to sequestration – can grow a company into a local economic driver.

Founded in 2004 by Xinsheng Sean Ling, a professor of physics at Brown University, Nabsys has developed a high-speed platform for nanopore-based DNA sequencing that combines solid-state nanodetectors with innovations in chemistry to reveal both the location and identity of DNA sequences over long distances.

Ling’s initial research and development was undertaken at Brown with a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation, and since then Nabsys – led by President and CEO Dr. Barrett Bready – has grown into a private company employing about 60 people and has raised $41 million in venture financing since 2009.

“The biotech industry and the two companies in Rhode Island profiled in the report are great examples, but it goes beyond biotech,” said Jon Pyatt, president of the Science Coalition. “Federally funded research has led to things like the laser, GPS, the MRI, the World Wide Web. It has literally changed the way we communicate, the way we conduct business, and it’s improved the health of the country.”

Yet federal funding for basic scientific research was at a historic low in 2013 as a percentage of the federal budget, according to the October study, and sequestration is expected to cut as much as $95 billion from research and development budgets through 2021.

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