Geneticist Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, said Wednesday that biomedical research had "never been under greater stress" due to budget cuts.
"It's a difficult time in our country," he said on PBS Newshour. "I get that. The fiscal situation is, clearly, very serious, and so it wouldn't be responsible of Congress to simply give dollars to anything without asking, are we getting something in return?"
"But the evidence for medical research is overwhelming, both in terms of advances in health, things like deaths from heart attack down by 60 percent, from stroke by 70 percent," Collins continued. "Survival with HIV-AIDS is now almost the normal lifespan. All of those things come out of NIH research. But you can look now to see what's being supported by our rigorous peer-review process and see also that we're doing the best science in the world."
Collins, who was formerly the head of the Human Genome Project, said investing in scientific research "absolutely" helped the economy. He said every dollar spent on the Human Genome Project returned $140 dollars after the project finished in 2003.
During his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama urged additional public investments in science. The President called for the government to support an effort to map the human brain. Collins said a decades-long project such as that could only be initiated by the government.
"The kind of science we're talking about with this brain activity map, this wouldn't happen in the private sector alone," he explained. "There's no direct product here that anybody would see as a reason to invest if you're a stockholder, but it will be something that industry will want to follow closely and build upon."
Watch video, uploaded to YouTube by PBS, below: