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Obama Announces $5 Billion in Medical Research Grants


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U.S. President Barack Obama is announcing $5 billion in new government grants, to help fight cancer, autism and heart disease. The grants come from the $787 billion Recovery Act, and the president says they will also stimulate the economy.

President Obama visited the sprawling National Institutes of Health, near Washington, and said the expenditure is vital to improving public health.

"To unlock treatments to diseases that have long plagued humanity, to save and enrich the lives of people all over the world. This represents the single largest boost to biomedical research in history," he said.

The grants include $175 million for the Cancer Genome Atlas, to map the way genetic changes affect cancer. The White House says the cancer study involves more than 150 scientists at dozens of institutions around the country.

"Collecting more than 20,000 tissue samples, to sequence the DNA of more than 20 types of cancer. And this has extraordinary potential to help us better understand and treat this disease," said the president.

Mr. Obama says much of the research being conducted at the National Institutes of Health would not have taken place in the corporate world.

"Some research does not lend itself to quick profit, and that is why places like the NIH were founded. And that is why my administration is making a historic commitment to research and the pursuit of discovery," he said.

The president also promoted the grants as a way to stimulate the economy by putting researchers, educators and medical equipment makers to work.

"They will create new jobs, tens of thousands of jobs; conducting research and manufacturing, and supplying medical equipment, and building and modernizing laboratories and research facilities all across America," he said.

Before he spoke about the grants, Mr. Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius toured a cancer-research laboratory. The president looked through a microscope at brain cells as researchers explained the difference between healthy and cancerous cells.