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  • Washington Highlights

    NIH Director and Institute Directors Testify Before House Appropriations Subcommittee

    Christa Wagner, Manager, Government Relations
    Tannaz Rasouli, Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach

    National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, and five directors of NIH institutes Sept. 25 testified on the investments in medical research before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS).

    In her opening statement, Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) discussed the importance of the hearing to learn about medical research being conducted at some of the smaller institutes at the NIH. Chairwoman DeLauro had previously shared her intention to hold such a hearing during the April hearing on the fiscal year (FY) 2020 NIH budget, which included Collins and five other institute directors [see Washington Highlights, April 5]. DeLauro also described the hearing as an opportunity to “demonstrate the need for the Congress to continue to invest in basic research.”

    Both DeLauro and Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-Okla.) praised the Subcommittee’s continued bipartisan efforts to support the NIH, resulting in steady funding growth for the agency over the last four years, and a proposed $2 billion increase for NIH in FY 2020 [see Washington Highlights, June 21]. In his questioning, Rep. Cole asked Collins how the funding growth has impacted NIH. Collins noted a large impact on Early Stage Investigators (ESI), citing that in 2013 the agency funded approximately 600 ESIs, but that number has more than doubled to 1,287 in FY 2019.

    Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) asked Collins for updates on NIH-funded research using fetal tissue following the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) June 5 announcement [see Washington Highlights, June 7]. Specifically, Rep. Pocan asked if there will be an effort to appoint scientists to the ethics advisory board, which will review proposals for extramural projects proposing to use fetal tissue. Collins noted that the statute describes the board as being comprised of one-third to one-half scientists but that the appointments are to be made by the HHS Secretary. Collins continued, “NIH is obviously interested in seeing this get up and going” so that new applications for research using human fetal tissue can go through this additional review process.

    Rep. Cole also raised the recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, recommending “$1.3 billion in new funding to address the Bethesda Campus’s needs to upgrade its buildings and facilities.” Collins agreed that the campus needs to address its deferred maintenance backlog while looking forward to creating new state-of-the-art research spaces.

    Joining Collins were Christopher Austin, MD, director of the National Center for Advancing Translational Science; Patricia Brennan, RN, PhD, director of the National Library of Medicine; Helene Langevin, MD, director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health; Eliseo Perez-Stable, MD, director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities; and Bruce Tromberg, PhD, director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.