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NFL Gives NIH $30 Million for Health Research

Supporters of the new agriculture research foundation created by this year’s farm bill often point to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health as a model.

Congress created the NIH foundation 18 years ago to identify and develop partnerships with industry, academia and philanthropies in areas such as clinical research. The foundation says that over those years it has raised $700 million for health and biomedical projects. The institution is a nonprofit that receives less than $1 million from the federal government for its work. The bulk of its support comes from a mix of foundations, corporations and some individuals.

In its most recent annual report, the NIH foundation details a new sports and health area of research funded by a $30 million donation from the National Football League.

At the time of the report, no definitive areas of study had been selected in sports and health, although the foundation mentioned brain injury, chronic pain, sudden cardiac death and heat- and hydration-related illnesses as potential areas of research. The NFL has come under increasing public scrutiny for its treatment of athletes’ injuries in several of those areas in recent years.

The Biomarkers Consortium, another foundation-sponsored research effort, is delving into biological and pathological disease indicators. The report says the Food and Drug Administration issued guidelines that could potentially cut the time and costs of drug development because of the foundation-backed I-Spy 2 trial study in which drugs are assigned to breast cancer patients according to the characteristics of their tumors. Multiple drugs are used in the trial and those that show promise are more quickly moved to the next stage of testing.

The foundation has also supported work on Alzheimer’s disease, child health, HIV and a medical research scholars program to introduce promising researchers to biomedical research.