Last May, the University of Missouri broke ground on the NextGen Precision Health Institute, a $220.8 million facility that will serve as a centerpiece of the UM System’s NextGen Precision Health Initiative. Bold statements followed the introduction of this initiative: It would revolutionize the university’s ability to understand and treat some of the world’s most challenging diseases, and it would stimulate Missouri’s economy in a big way by researching, developing and applying state-of-the-art, breakthrough medical technologies.

Having spent decades researching economics and monetary policy, both in university settings and at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, this project caught my attention. My team at MU’s Economic & Policy Analysis Research Center wanted to realistically quantify how the new initiative, which coordinates research and medical treatment at all four UM campuses, would impact the Missouri economy. Now, after conducting an in-depth economic analysis to that end, we have calculated that over the next 25 years, NextGen will have a $5.6 billion impact on Missouri’s economy.

Why so big? NextGen will be focusing its money and manpower on research and development; historically, when ideas are created, they spill over into commercial applications and open up new opportunities in industry.

As new technologies and treatments spring forth from these ideas, jobs are added to support production and commercial implementation — we project that by 2045, NextGen will have directly contributed to 7,000 new jobs. As the economy expands, Missouri’s General Revenue Fund — upon which the state depends to support the vital functions of government — will expand proportionally, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

These numbers, impressive as they are, are based on conservative estimates. They also reflect the fact that consumer health care spending is growing at least three times faster than Missouri’s annual GDP, making health care a smart investment.

For the purposes of our study, we assumed the initiative would yield average returns. In other words, the gains researchers produce in terms of drug development and treatments for cancer, cardiovascular disease and neurological disease will be equal to the gains from other research projects. But with an array of assets at its disposal, the UM System is positioned to tackle these goals, and Columbia could generate extraordinary yields with just a few breakthroughs and the expertise that makes them possible.

One such asset — MU’s NextGen Precision Health Institute — will define the cutting edge of state-of-the-art, collaborative medicine. The building will allow researchers that were once isolated in different areas of campus, such as biochemists and computer scientists, to quickly and directly coordinate with each other.

Combined with the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s work in high performance computing and data analytics, the development of novel biomaterials that help the body heal itself at Missouri University of Science and Technology and the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ efforts to battle the opioid crisis with better-equipped health providers, the UM System’s NextGen Initiative is not starting from scratch, but is already poised to deliver on its promises.

The initiative has lofty goals, but we now know that its potential benefits are very real. NextGen has the ability to create a healthier state, not only in terms of improving the overall health of Missourians but by growing the economy through increased technological advancement, breakthrough research and ideas, and a healthier, more productive workforce. That’s an initiative, and a vision of Missouri, that we can all get behind.

Dr. Joseph Haslag is the Director of the Economic and Policy Analysis Research Center at MU as well as the Kenneth Lay Chair in Economics and Director of Doctoral Studies in the Department of Economics.


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