In the United States, the National Institutes of Health spends far more on basic and applied research than any other federal agency. About triple the second-place agency (NASA) on basic, and more than double the second-place agency (DOE) on applied.Bird on a Fire wrote: ↑Thu Dec 03, 2020 12:01 amYeah I feel like stuff like physics and space get way more huge public projects funded - all those space missions and particle accelerators and supercomputers and things. Biology seems to be expected to survive to a much greater extent as a by-product of commercial research. (I haven't checked the numbers, but I can't think of many similar big public biology projects - even the coronavirus vaccine has been largely funnelled through private corporations, and that was a global emergency)
What NIH doesn't spend on is development, on which DOD and NASA and DOE spend billions. That's why U.S. COVID-19 vaccine development was done largely by private companies, though still with lots and lots of federal money (most of it in the form of advance purchases, rather than research grants).
I'm not a biologist, and I don't follow NIH all that closely, so I can't claim to understand why it has chosen not to fund more big projects, but given that it's relatively awash in money, my starting guess would mostly be that it doesn't think that's the most effective way to spend it. Possibly also that it doesn't have much experience with running such projects -- unlike DOE, for example, which has lots of big facilities, and does biology with some of them (e.g. supercomputers and light sources as mentioned above) even though someone who just saw the words "Department of Energy" might not expect that.