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  • Washington Highlights

    Appropriators Examine NIH Budget

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

    The House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Subcommittee March 16 held a hearing to discuss the president’s fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget request for the National Institutes of Health [see Washington Highlights, Feb. 12].

    In his opening remarks, Subcommittee Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.) expressed his disappointment with the Administration’s proposal to decrease discretionary funding for NIH by stating that the “proposal to divert $1 billion of biomedical research funds to the mandatory side of the budget ledger and rely on new and, perhaps unlikely, authorizations to continue the advances we have made in increasing research funding were disheartening,” adding that he does “not plan to let the $1 billion cut stand.”

    Cole also highlighted the importance of investing in early career scientists, adding that “without a pipeline of young researchers committed to following the process, we won’t be able to find the cures we seek.”

    Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) expressed concern with other Members of Congress suggesting “a desire to shift unobligated funds that Congress provided for Ebola to respond to Zika,” adding that “we need to be able to respond to multiple public health threats at the same time” [see Washington Highlights, Feb. 26].

    In his opening statement, House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers (R- Ky.) noted he was proud to “increase your [NIH] budget in FY 2016 by $2 billion to fund more groundbreaking medical research,” but he, too, expressed his disappointment with the Administration’s proposal to decrease the appropriation for NIH and propose mandatory funding instead.

    In his testimony, NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., discussed how the FY 2016 increase in discretionary funding has impacted various NIH initiatives, such as the Precision Medicine Initiative and the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative. Additionally, he discussed the importance increased investments have on Research Project Grants, which fund investigator-initiated research.

    Other witnesses included:

    • Doug Lowy, M.D., Acting Director, National Cancer Institute;
    • Anthony Fauci, M.D., Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases;
    • Richard Hodes, M.D., Director, National Institute on Aging; and
    • Nora Volkow, M.D., Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse.