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  • Washington Highlights

    Appropriators Discuss Role of F&A Support in Advancing Medical Research

    Tannaz Rasouli, Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach

    Four research institutions Oct. 24 testified before the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee about the essential role of federal support for facilities and administrative (F&A) costs in advancing medical research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

    Subcommittee members widely panned the president’s FY 2018 proposal to limit NIH support for F&A to 10 percent of the agency’s extramural budget, a 72 percent cut below current levels [see Washington Highlights, May 26].

    In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.) stated, “Based on many discussions with researchers, administrators, and other research funders both in Oklahoma and across the country, I am very concerned that the proposed F&A rate cut would drastically reduce the amount and quality of research conducted in the U.S., and that public universities would be particularly hard-hit.”

    Both he and Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) pointed to bipartisan language in the subcommittee’s FY 2018 spending bill (H.R. 3358, H.Rept. 115-244) intended to block the administration from moving forward with the proposal, language which was also included in the spending bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee (S. 1771, S.Rept. 115-150) and the continuing resolution (P.L. 115-56) enacted Sept. 8.

    Other members of the subcommittee also expressed concern over efforts to undermine support for NIH through cuts to F&A reimbursement, inquiring about consequences for research progress, local economic activity, and global competitiveness.

    Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), however, indicated an interest in exploring the president’s proposal further, noting that some foundations do not support F&A costs and suggesting that NIH funding should be restructured to more explicitly support early career investigators. Witnesses explained that foundations account for direct and indirect research expenses differently from the federal government and that foundation support makes up a small fraction – six percent – of all research funding. The panel also offered examples of strategies institutions are using to support new investigators.

    Witnesses included Kelvin Droegemeier, Ph.D., vice president for research, University of Oklahoma; D. Gary Gilliland, M.D., Ph.D., president and director, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; Bruce Liang, M.D., FACC, dean, University of Connecticut School of Medicine; and Keith Yamamoto, Ph.D., vice chancellor of science policy and strategy, University of California San Francisco.

    In a separate hearing the following day, the subcommittee heard testimony from two panels of witnesses about research on Down Syndrome and the potential for discoveries across other major diseases. In addition to a congressional panel, witnesses included individuals representing the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, as well as researchers from the University of California San Diego and University of Colorado School of Medicine.