Brain Drain at the NIH?

Last week the NIH announced drastic new rules restricting employees, and their spouses and dependents, from stock holdings in drug, biotech and other companies with significant medical divisions.  Consulting, lecturing and other outside income is also severely restricted.  Even most prizes and awards with money are now forbidden (the Nobel is an exception). NIH employees are furious.

Word on the street is that universities, including GMU, are receiving a flood of applications from talented scientists. (Perhaps the NIH should have consulted with some economists who might have explained the concepts of opportunity costs and compensating differentials).

No doubt there were some conflicts of interest and some abuses but there were also virtues in the old system.  The free flow of scientists to and from commercial and government research is a key part of what made Washington and Maryland’s biotech sector succesful.  Moreover, as Steve Pearlstein notes, it wasn’t that long ago that this free flow of people, ideas and money was encouraged, precisely in order to get the scientists out of their ivory tower and into the real world of medical need.  Expect less from the NIH in the future.


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