Computational model compares disease societal cost vs. research funding

University of Chicago researchers have developed a computational model to improve the allocation of U.S. biomedical research resources.

Their Research Opportunity Index (ROI) compares resources allocated to study a specific disease compared with its relative burden on society. The study was published in Nature Biotechnology.

"We have a distorted map of the frequency and importance of events from media and articles, and without special efforts to reconcile the reality, we are inherently biased," senior study author Andrey Rzhetsky, Ph.D., professor of genetic medicine and senior fellow at the Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology at the University of Chicago, says in an announcement.

With their tool, researchers looked at the societal burden of 1,400 medical conditions in the United States over 12 years, including frequency of diagnosis and healthcare insurance costs and compared that with published research, grants awarded and clinical trials for each condition. The tool creates an "investment portfolio" of the resources dedicated to each disease.

It ranked breast cancer among the diseases with more dedicated resources than relative societal burden, while the autoimmune disorder Hashimoto's thyroiditis falls on the other end of the spectrum. Though Hashimoto's disease has nearly the same incidence among women as breast cancer, there were only 16 open clinical trials for it.

Ten new "breakthrough" drugs for conditions such as hepatitis C and breast cancer are expected to cost Medicare and Medicaid almost $50 billion to cover in the next 10 years, according to a new report from Avalere Health.

Though the U.S. leads the world in creating new drugs and healthcare tech, the system discourages inventors from creating cost-lowering technologies in favor of ones with a healthy return on investment, an article at the Journal of the American Medical Association found recently.

To learn more:
- here's the study (subscription required)
- read the announcement