Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee:
Thank you for inviting me to testify this morning. As
you may know, Johns Hopkins has been engaged with the
innovation issue for a number of years — primarily
through the efforts of our president, Dr. William R. Brody,
and most recently through his work on the National
Innovation Initiative with Intel Corp.'s chairman, Dr.
Craig Barrett. I am pleased to have the opportunity today
to share our University's perspective on this important
The United States has long been the world leader in
scientific discovery, thanks largely to government policies
that encourage innovation, improve education at all levels,
and facilitate the transfer of knowledge from the
laboratory to the marketplace. Today we face serious
threats to this preeminence. Other nations bring to the
table strong educational systems, focused government
policies, and low-cost workers. Asian and European
countries are committing unprecedented resources to science
and engineering programs.
Basic research is essential to our ability to meet
this challenge. President Brody puts it this way:
"Knowledge drives innovation. Innovation drives
productivity. Productivity drives economic growth." Our
ability to compete in the global economy depends, first and
foremost, on our ability to continue making new
discoveries. The more we learn about how things work
— the principles of basic biology, chemistry,
physics, and mathematics — the more opportunity we
have to put that knowledge to use. When we know more, we
can use that knowledge to make our world better, to build
new businesses and devise new products, and to improve our
standard of living.
America's most innovative industries are built on
decades of basic research, research that had no discernable
practical application at the time it was undertaken. No
practical application, that is, until a light bulb went on
in someone's head; until someone said, "I can use that to
The highly theoretical world
of quantum mechanics spawned the semiconductor industry and
the information revolution.
Johns Hopkins scientists
thinking about the principle of physics called the Doppler
effect used it to invent what became today's Global
Two Johns Hopkins biologists
shared a Nobel Prize in 1978 for using restriction enzymes
to cut DNA into fragments. Had that esoteric basic research
not been done, we would not today have a thriving
biotechnology industry in this country.
And what about CDs and DVDs?
You would still be using vinyl and videotape if it were not
for lasers, the roots of which go back to theoretical work
by Albert Einstein.
In the United States, funding basic research has long
been a governmental function. Why? Because it takes a long
time to do it, because there is always a risk that any
single project will come to nothing, and because it is
difficult to capture an immediate return on investment in
an idea that has not yet been developed to the stage of a
Despite a societal consensus that basic research is a
government responsibility, however, U.S. federal research
and development spending, as a percentage of gross domestic
product, peaked forty years ago, in 1965, at just below 2
percent of GDP. In the past 40 years, that percentage has
diminished by more than half, to about 0.8 percent of GDP.
Overall R&D spending, especially in basic sciences,
continues to decline.
We must reverse this trend now, by strengthening the
nation's commitment to science-related federal agencies and
programs, particularly the National Science Foundation, the
National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy's
Office of Science, the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration, and the Department of Defense's basic
Research and Innovation at American Universities
The Johns Hopkins University is the nation's leading
recipient of federal research grants. In FY 2005, our
researchers attracted $1.28 billion in federal R&D funding
and $1.44 billion in overall R&D funding, a category in
which Johns Hopkins has led all U.S. institutions for 25
consecutive years. This support allows us to improve
medical care worldwide, advance human knowledge, and train
new generations of innovative researchers.
But investment in research universities like Johns
Hopkins yields tangible economic benefits as well. In FY
2004, Johns Hopkins alone produced 89 patents, filed 402
new patent applications, and generated $6.3 million dollars
in income from technology licenses. That same year, our
friends at the University of California won 270 patents;
MIT won 159 and CalTech 142. In all, there were more than
3,200 patents issued to U.S. universities. That is a
tremendous amount of knowledge made available to American
business for commercialization and to the American public
for an incalculable range of benefits.
Here are just a few recent examples from my own
institution; my counterparts at other major research
universities, were they here today, would provide examples
equally illustrative of the point:
Johns Hopkins has filed for a
patent for self-assembling cubes, the size of a speck of
dust, that can carry medicine into the body. These devices,
which come out of an NIH-funded collaboration between
engineers and radiologists, open up possibilities for the
pharmaceutical industry for a new generation of "smart
pills" aimed directly at a diseased or injured part of the
The Johns Hopkins Applied
Physics Laboratory has greatly improved molecularly
imprinted polymers, or MIPs. These are special materials
that can be tailored to detect specific chemical
substances. We are now working with a startup company to
develop products using this patented technology to improve
drinking water and treat wastewater.
Thanks to the licensing of our
technologies to industry, one company outside Baltimore
sells thin films that weld materials together in
thousandths of a second. Another is developing products to
improve the detection of explosives.
There is a company using
Johns Hopkins technology to analyze bone health. Another is
using technology originally created to detect submarines to
analyze instead the sound of the beating human heart.
Renewing our Commitment to Basic Research
Johns Hopkins strongly supports efforts to secure the
competitive strength and national security of the United
States by bolstering the nation's ability to innovate. The
National Innovation Initiative, the National Academy of
Sciences report Rising Above the Gathering Storm,
President Bush's American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI),
the National Innovation Act, and the Protecting America's
Competitive Edge (PACE) Acts: each of these welcome efforts
has helped to get the issue of basic science and innovation
on the table for discussion and debate. Each envisions
increased support for federal science agencies. The ACI,
for example, calls for increased funding for programs at
the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy's
Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards
As we engage in this discussion, it is crucial to
stress that the physical sciences should not be funded to
the exclusion of the life sciences. Today, biologists,
statisticians, physicists, engineers, and computer
scientists all work together to advance the knowledge we
need to solve our most important problems.
Unfortunately, we tend at any one time to favor life
sciences over physical sciences or vice versa, starving one
to feed the other. That must not happen. The nature of
scientific innovation today means that starving one starves
The basic life sciences research funded by the
National Institutes of Health is a key component of our
overall national science agenda. This fiscal year, spending
for the NIH has been cut $66 million. This was the first
cut to the NIH since 1970. For FY07, the President has
requested $28.43 billion — essentially a freeze at
the current level. And the number of new NIH grants has
already tumbled nearly 15 percent from its peak in 2003,
hobbling the ability of scientists to open up new lines of
Last year, with the support of the NIH, Johns Hopkins
established the nation's first Institute for Computational
Medicine, staffed by biomedical researchers and physical
scientists from our School of Medicine and School of
Engineering. Using powerful information management and
computing tools, research teams will mine data, model
molecular networks, identify biomarkers of disease at early
stages, and find new and more effective ways to treat
As NIH funding erodes, we are concerned that projects
that meld physical and biological sciences, such as work of
the Institute for Computational Medicine, could be among
the first to suffer. These projects provide a vital
foundation both for medical advancement and for innovation,
the kind of innovation that leads to economic growth. They
should be supported.
Return on our national investment in basic research
will be most fully realized only if universities can
continue to attract the best and brightest from
around the world. Research universities have
relied on open visa policies designed to promote
international intellectual exchange. But today,
delays and difficulties in obtaining visas to the
United States have contributed to a declining
in-flow of scientific talent. At Johns Hopkins,
for instance, the number of foreign
undergraduate students dropped from
355 in 2001 to 263 in 2004.
Competitor nations, meanwhile, are quite naturally
taking advantage of our increasingly cumbersome visa
process to lure top talent away from the United States. And
with the strengthening of foreign science, there are many
attractive substitutes abroad for U.S. degree programs,
fellowships, and academic conferences.
No question: it is critical that federal policy
protect our national security. At the same time, however,
we must foster an environment favorable to international
students and scholars. Immigration policies should make it
easy for the best and brightest to come here, to stay here,
and then to live and work here when their studies are
complete. Johns Hopkins supports government policies and
contracting practices that facilitate rather than hinder
participation by international students and scientists in
the conduct of unclassified fundamental research.
Neither strong investment in research nor
participation from abroad will preserve America's
competitive edge in the long term if we do not repair our
faltering K-12 education system, especially in the areas of
mathematics, science, engineering, and technology. Advanced
research at universities can only be built on a foundation
of basic education.
Since 1980, America's non-academic science and
engineering jobs have grown at more than four times the
rate of the U.S. labor force as a whole. But in the same
two and a half decades, the performance of K-12 students in
science and mathematics has declined. According to figures
cited by the Association of American Universities, U.S.
fourth graders score well against international competition
in math and science testing. By the 12th grade, however,
our students have fallen to near the bottom.
This weakness also shows up at the postsecondary
level. In 1966, American-born students earned 77 percent of
science and engineering Ph.D.s awarded in the United
States, while foreign-born students earned 23 percent. In
2000, it was 61 percent for U.S.-born students and 39
percent for those from abroad.
At Johns Hopkins, we are able to attract and enroll
well-qualified students, but our elementary and secondary
education experts' work with schools around the country
reminds us daily that the problem of deficient K-12
education in math and science must be addressed —
Colleges and universities are stepping in to help. At
Johns Hopkins, we provide enrichment for talented students
and programs to attract young people into science and
technology careers. We help schools reform their curricula.
We work to train new teachers, including scientists or
engineers looking for a second career.
But government action is obviously needed as well.
The National Innovation Act, the Protecting America's
Competitive Edge Acts, and President Bush's American
Competitiveness Initiative all address this problem. I
would like to thank Senator Ensign for his leadership on
these issues, and for introducing, with Senator Lieberman
and others, the National Innovation Act (S. 2109). This
legislation is an important step toward solving many of the
issues before us today. I hope that we will continue to see
bipartisan cooperation, both here in the Senate and in the
House, on all these proposals.
I would like to offer two examples of what can be
accomplished by strong K-12 programs. Ryan Harrison and Abe
Davis are two incredibly gifted and successful Baltimore
students. Both were enrolled in Baltimore Polytechnic
Institute's special foundation-funded "Ingenuity Project"
for gifted math and science students. Both worked with some
of the city schools' most accomplished teachers; both
received dedicated and generous mentoring from Johns
Thanks to their talent and these advantages, Ryan and
Abe were able to make extraordinary advances while they
were each just 17 years old. Ryan, working in a chemical
and biomolecular engineering lab at Johns Hopkins, extended
the abilities of a molecular biology program called
Rosetta. He wrote code late into the night until he had
come up with a way to predict protein behavior at varying
pH levels. Abe also invested impossible hours in his
project, building an immensely complex computer graphics
model of the thousands of bounces and collisions that
result from dropping scores of balls into a box.
Someday, Ryan's work may help make it possible to
create antibodies customized to fight a particular
patient's cancer. Who knows what startling uses medical
researchers, scientists, and engineers might find for Abe's
computer simulation technology?
Both Ryan and Abe are winners in Intel's Science
Talent Search. Ryan is now a student at Johns Hopkins and
part of our Baltimore Scholars Program, which provides full
scholarships to graduates of Baltimore's public high
schools who earn admission to the university.
Unfortunately, these successes are far from the norm.
The kinds of advantages Ryan and Abe enjoyed simply are not
available in the classrooms of most American students,
including many of those with real math and science talent.
Students from disadvantaged backgrounds have been
From early childhood and pre-school education through
high school, there are heroic, but isolated, efforts under
way around the country to better prepare the children of
America to make the discoveries and technological advances
that will save lives, improve living, and drive the economy
forward. Those isolated efforts, however, must become
systemic and must be backed by the resources and political
will that can make them effective.
Unless we act, stories like Ryan Harrison's and Abe
Davis's will remain nothing more than happy exceptions.
Thank you for your efforts to strengthen American
competitiveness. If we at Johns Hopkins can assist you in
this important endeavor, please do not hesitate to contact
us. I invite you and your staff to visit our campuses,
explore our facilities and meet our researchers face to
face. You will find no more persuasive argument for the
inestimable value of investment in research than witnessing
the innovative enterprise firsthand.