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Changes in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 6164
The National Institutes of Health Reform Act
December 7, 2006

The Senate amendment to HR 6164, passed by Congress on December 9, makes technical and other changes to the bill passed in the House on September 26, 2007, with a strong bipartisan vote of 414-2. NAEVR endorsed HR 6164, since it reflected significant changes requested by NAEVR, specifically: it did not cluster Institute budgets; it authorized funding increases for NIH for each of the Fiscal Years (FY) 2007-2009; it aligned its provisions with recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in a 2003 report entitled Enhancing the Vitality of the National Institutes of Health; and it recognized the importance of the scientific peer review process and investigator-initiated research. The Senate amendment further strengthens the role of the appropriators and their discretion to specify line item budgets for the Institutes/Centers and Office of the Director.

Summary of Major Revisions:

Authorization of Appropriations

  • Reauthorizes the NIH for the three-year period Fiscal Years (FY) 2007-2009.
  • Increases the dollar level for authorizations of appropriations in FY2007 (by seven percent) and FY2008 (by eight percent), and authorizes "such sums as may be necessary" for FY2009.
  • Maintains the budget line for the Office of the Director and authorizes "such sums as may be necessary for fiscal years 2007 – 2009" rather than the specific funding level authorized in the House-passed bill.
Common Fund
  • Eliminates the formula included in the House-passed bill that 50 percent of all new dollars go to the common fund until it is five percent of the overall NIH budget. Rather, it requires the NIH Director to establish a reserve account to fund the common fund, subject to appropriations, and clarifies that the amount reserved for the common fund may not be less than the percentage reserved during the previous fiscal year. It does state that, once the common fund reaches five percent of the overall NIH budget, the NIH Director/HHS Secretary can make recommendations to Congress for any changes to this amount.
  • Requires a report to Congress every two years, beginning June 1, 2007, outlining the strategic planning needs to efficiently maximize the potential of research activities supported by the common fund.
  • Maintains the House-passed bill requirement for a "Council of Councils," a new advisory council that will review the trans-NIH proposals and make recommendations regarding how money in the common fund may be competitively drawn down by Institutes, Centers and independent investigators. It adds the NIH Council of Public Representatives as a source from which "Council of Councils" members may be drawn.
Scientific Management Review Board
  • Maintains the House-passed bill requirement for a new advisory council, the Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB), to periodically review NIH’s structure and clarifies that certain recommendations made by the SMRB are subject to Congressional review prior to implementation, while others are recommendations without a required timeline for implementation.
  • Ensures that the NIH Director is a non-voting, ex officio member, and Institute and Center Directors cannot chair the SMRB.
Organizational Authorities
  • Maintains current law with respect to the HHS Secretary’s authority to reorganize Institutes and Centers at NIH.
Reporting Requirements
  • Maintains the House-passed bill requirement that NIH establish an electronic system to uniformly code research grants and activities through out NIH and that the NIH Director submit a biennial report to Congress on the state of biomedical research.
  • Clarifies that reports may be submitted to Congress by the heads of national research Institutes and Centers in addition to the biennial report submitted by the Director of NIH.
Centers of Excellence
  • Includes new transparency reporting requirements to better evaluate and improve research activities at Centers of Excellence. If no additional Centers of Excellence were established between reporting periods, it requires the Director of NIH to justify why no new Centers were created.
Training
  • Clarifies the training authorities with respect to the Director and includes additional language regarding the outcomes of graduate student training.