New Report Shows Growth in Federal and Private Sector Medical R&D Investment: COVID-19 Spending Inflates Bottom Line

According to the U.S. Investments in Medical and Health Research and Development 2016-2020 report, released today by Research!America, total U.S. Investment in medical and health research and development (R&D) grew by 11.1% from 2019 to 2020, reaching $245.1 billion. The private sector continues to be our nation’s largest investor in medical and health R&D, accounting for 66% of U.S. spending, followed by the federal government at just over 25%. 

These findings include the infusion of one-time funding the federal government provided in 2020 to address COVID-19. We know that industry also devoted significant funding to developing COVID-19 countermeasures. Funding slowdowns and declines in other segments of the medical and health R&D ecosystem could well reflect the strain COVID-19 placed on academic and other research institutions, state government, and non-governmental organization resources.

Even with the addition of supplemental federal funding for COVID-19 interventions, U.S medical and health R&D spending amounted to less than 6 cents of every health care dollar on R&D.

COVID-19 has underscored the importance of public and private sectors working individually and in partnership to rapidly translate decades of scientific discovery into safe and effective vaccines and treatments. At the same time, our nation continues to experience losses from diseases such as cancer and heart disease that remain our leading causes of death.

Dramatic additional investments in R&D funding are needed to address the full spectrum of health threats facing our nation and the global community, to prepare for future crises, and to remain a global leader in R&D.

“The federal government and private sector have both stepped up to fight the most destructive global health crisis in more than a century. This same sense of urgency should fuel the fight to conquer health threats that rob us of hope, independence, and time every minute of every day,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America.

“More than 1 million individuals in the United States lose their lives prematurely every year. We are fighting back, but far too slowly given the untapped potential that lies in medical and health R&D. Let 2022 be the year our nation takes the leap to a new level of investment that dramatically speeds medical and public health progress.”

In 2020, total U.S. medical and health R&D investment was $245.1 billion. Of that:

  • Industry invested $161.8 billion in medical and health R&D (66.0%).
  • Federal departments and agencies invested $61.5 billion (25.1%).
  • Academic and research institutions invested $16.8 billion of their own funds (6.9%).
  • Foundations, voluntary health associations, and professional societies provided $3.0 billion in medical and health R&D funding (1.2%).
  • State governments spent $2.1 billion on health R&D (0.9%).

The full report looks at five years of U.S. medical and health R&D investment by sector. Download the full report.

The data for U.S. medical and health R&D investment were developed by TEConomy Partners, LLC,, under contract to Research!America.

Contact Tim Haynes, Senior Director of Communications, at 571-482-2737 or with press inquiries.

About Research!America

Research!America is a non-profit medical and health research advocacy alliance which advocates for science, discovery, and innovation to achieve better health for all. Visit


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