Obama says $5B in grants will aid medical research

The government on Wednesday awarded $5 billion in grants that President Barack Obama said would pay for research into cures for cancer and other diseases, and create tens of thousands of jobs.

Obama made the announcement at the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda, Md., with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Before making remarks about the grants, Obama and Sebelius toured a NIH oncology laboratory.

“That’s a pretty spiffy microscope,” Obama remarked as he walked through the lab.

Researchers allowed the president take a look at the brain cells they’re studying, explaining the difference between healthy cells and cancerous cells.

In a White House statement, Obama said the money was designed “to fund cutting-edge medical research in every state across America. “

The money comes from the $787 billion economic stimulus program that is designed to help create jobs and turn around the economy. The program included $10 billion for the NIH.

Obama said the grants would create “tens of thousands of jobs conducting research, manufacturing and supplying medical equipment, and building and modernizing laboratories and research facilities.”

Jared Bernstein, who is Vice President Joe Biden’s chief economist, said the $5 billion will support some 12,000 existing projects and create thousands of jobs over the next two years for researchers and educators, as well as medical equipment makers and suppliers.

The White House statement said the money would fund “several areas including heart disease, autism, HIV-AIDS, H1N1 Flu and cancer.”

The investment includes $175 million for The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) to collect more than 20,000 tissue samples from more than 20 cancers, and determine in detail all of the genetic changes in thousands of these tumor samples.

“We are about to see a quantum leap in our understanding of cancer,” said NIH Director Dr. Francis S. Collins.

The cancer study involves more than 150 scientists at dozens of institutions around the country, the White House statement said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.