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Drug companies are fast tracking the development of vaccines, which Collins believes would have been available by now if funding hadn't been cut.
Over the past 10 years, the NIH has lost about 25 percent of its purchasing power thanks to a drop in investment in biomedical research, he told CNBC's "Street Signs."
"NIH has been working on an Ebola vaccine way back in the mid-1990s but all of this process takes time, takes resources. Here we are now in a circumstance where the vaccine is desperately needed," Collins added.
The good news, however, is that things are now moving at an "incredibly rapid pace," he said, with phase two and three trials of vaccines expected in West Africa by the first of the year.
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Mike Milken, chairman of the Milken Institute and its FasterCures center, pointed out that the No. 1 driver of economic growth in the world has been medical research and public health.
"The world has changed. Life expectancy in a generation has increased by 50 percent in sub-Sahara Africa and 7 of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world are in sub-Sahara Africa," said Milken.
"When we think about what the solutions are, they lie here in the biosciences."
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Collins agreed that the issue is not only about health but also economics.
"If we want to see the United States continue to lead the world in biotechnology and all of the spinoffs that come out of that, it takes those investments," he said.
"There's an ecosystem between public and private. It's been the envy of the world. The world is trying to copy what the U.S. has been doing for decades. Meanwhile we seem to have lost some of our own momentum. We need to get that back."
—Reuters contributed to this report.