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Drop in Funding Loses U.S. Its Biotech Lead

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- The United States used to be considered the premiere, pioneering country when it came to scientific breakthroughs, particularly in the field of biomedical research and technology. In recent years, however, the U.S. has been losing serious ground.

Research out of the University of Michigan finds that U.S. spending on biomedical research has declined significantly in the past few years, while in many other countries it's been holding steady or increasing.

The U.S. global share of biomedical research fell from 51% in 2007 to 45% in 2012 -- an overall drop from $131 billion to $119 billion adjusted for inflation. Meanwhile, Japan and China have increased spending dramatically -- by $9 billion and $6.4 billion, respectively -- leading to an overall rise in Asia's share of research spending from 18% to 24%. Europe remained steady at 29% of the global share.

The results of the study, published this month in the New England Journal of Medicine, indicates that the decline in spending is a direct result of reduced investment from the industry. Even when taking into account decreased funding from the National Institutes of Health, the public sector was accountable for very little of the overall reduction in investment.

"We were surprised the impact of industry funding was that dramatic, but it's key to note that government funding is equally important to maintain or grow," venture capital investor with Thomas, McNerney & Partners and study co-author Justin Chakma said in a press release. "Research funded through the National Institutes of Health helps scientists understand how diseases work -- this will happen slower as NIH funding continues to be cut."

The U.S. once hovered at a historic high of approximately 80% of the global share in biomedical research spending. And about half of the drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have traditionally been at least partially funded by the federal government during the research and development phase.