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FY2007 House and Senate LHHS Appropriations Billsí Report Language Lauds NEI for Research into Diabetic Retinopathy and AMD

Legislative Update
July 24, 2006

The Report Language accompanying the House and Senate Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) appropriations bills (which have not yet seen House or Senate floor action) laud research conducted by the National Eye Institute (NEI) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Although the House bill (which adopts the Presidentís FY2007 budget request) would not increase NIH funding over the FY2006 level, and would cut NEI funding by 0.8% or $5.3 million, its Report Language applauds NEI for its collaborative efforts within the Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network to test innovative treatment for diabetic eye disease. The House Appropriations Committee encourages NEI to expand and extend the network by increasing the number of clinical trials with new drugs and therapeutics that can reverse or prevent diabetic retinopathy.

The Senate bill, which proposes to increase FY2007 NIH funding by $200 million and NEI funding by $600,000 over the FY2006 funding level, recognizes the NEI-funded discovery of gene variants strongly associated with the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness. The Senate Appropriations Committee urges NEI to move on an expedited basis to translate this finding into treatments for those suffering from this condition. In May 19 testimony before the Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee, NAEVR witness Dr. Peter McDonnell (Wilmer Eye Institute/Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine) identified missed opportunities to follow up on the gene variant discoveries unless the NEI was funded in FY2007 at a level greater than that proposed in the Presidentís budget.

The respective House and Senate Appropriations Committees also included Report Language that directs the NIH overall to provide greater detail in FY2008 budgets on where funding is being invested, especially as it relates to new initiatives. The Senate Report Language extensively addresses Human Embryonic Stem Cell research, expressing concern with the slow pace of implementation of the current stem cell policy and strongly urging that NIH explore all avenues of research, including adult stem cells and alternative methods of establishing human embryonic stem cell lines that do not involve the destruction of an embryo.