Study Finds a Huge Diversity Shortfall in Biomedical Research

UCSFLogoA new study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, finds that over the past 30 years there has been little change in the number of clinical research studies that include subjects from underrepresented minority groups. And there has been little change in the race of scientists being funded with federal research grants in medical science.

The study found that since the 1993 NIH Revitalization Act, which required all federally funded clinical research to prioritize the inclusion of women and minorities, less than 2 percent of the 10,000-plus cancer studies have included enough minorities to be relevant. Only 5 percent of the studies in respiratory research have included enough minority subjects to be relevant.

The authors state that only 2 percent of all principal investigators of National Institute of Health grants are African Americans. This fact alone limits minority subjects in clinical research, according to the authors, because minority physicians and scientists are more likely to conduct research in minority populations and also may be able to gain the trust of those communities more easily in recruitment.

Sam Oh, an epidemiologist in the UCSF Center for Genes, Environment and Health and first author of the study. stated that “we can’t divert our resources knowing that an intervention is only going to work on a small portion of the population. By understanding that population, we can target our resources effectively for everyone. But we’ll only learn that by having study populations that represent everyone.”

The study, “Diversity in Clinical and Biomedical Research: A Promise Yet to Be Fulfilled,” was published in the online journal PLOS Medicine. may be accessed here.

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