The Washington area received a higher percentage of research and development contracts from the National Institutes of Health than any other region in fiscal 1986, according to a study released last week by the Washington-Baltimore Regional Association.

Businesses and universities in the area received $161.7 million of the $462.5 million awarded by NIH, easily outstripping the Boston/Lawrence/Salem area of Massachusetts, which got $26.6 million in contracts, and San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose, which got $23.1 million.

"These statistics clearly speak to the importance of the Baltimore-Washington region as a national leader in biomedical research," said P. Wesley Foster, chairman of the regional association. "It should come as no surprise that one out of every 10 biotechnology firms in the United States is located in the bimetropolitan market."

The study was released days after a report by the National Science Foundation showed that Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore garnered a larger share of federal research funds in fiscal 1986 than any other university. Hopkins received $446 million, more than the total of the next two leading grant recipients, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University.

Funds from the National Science Foundation are largely intended to foster pure scientific work. NIH contracts are used by the various departments of the institutes to farm out scientific work that cannot be handled in-house, to encourage private research that complements government work, or to foster the further development or commercialization of NIH research.

About 80 percent of the 302 contracts dispensed by the NIH locally went to private firms. The average value of those contracts was $535,000, 50 percent higher than the average national award of $356,366, and up 12 percent over a year earlier.