NAEVR Testifies at House Hearing and Requests FY2013 NEI Funding of $730 Million

Hendrik Scholl, M.D.

On March 29, NAEVR testified and requested Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at a level of at least $32 billion and National Eye Institute (NEI) at $730 million at a Public Witness hearing of the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee. On March 20, the Subcommittee had previously held a hearing featuring NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., who supported the Administration’s FY2013 request for NIH funding at $30.7 billion, the same as in FY2012, in his testimony.

NAEVR—which was one of twenty organization selected out of 125 that had requested to appear—was represented by Hendrik Scholl, M.D., who serves as The Dr. Frieda Bambas Professor of Ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Scholl, who received his medical degree in Germany and completed a fellowship in London, provided an international perspective on the importance of adequately funding the NIH. As a clinician-scientist who focuses on diseases of the retina, primarily retinal degenerations that include age-related macular degeneration (AMD), he urged the Subcommittee not to cut FY2013 NEI funding by $8.9 million to a level of $693 million, as proposed in the President’s budget.

“The proposed FY2013 level is just slightly above the FY2009 level. It results in a net $14 million loss in NEI funding since its highest funding level in FY2010, which translates into about 40 research grants-any one of which could hold the promise of curing a blinding eye disease. It also represents just a little over one percent of the $68 billion that blindness and vision impairment cost the United States each year.”

Dr. Scholl also reminded the Subcommittee that both the House and Senate passed resolutions in 2009 that designated 2010-2020 as The Decade of Vision, in which the majority of the 78 million “Baby Boomers” will turn 65 years of age and face the greatest risk of aging eye disease. He cautioned that a cut, level funding, or even an inflationary increase is not sufficient for the NEI to meet the extraordinary vision challenges presented by the “Silver Tsunami.”

In noting the advances that have been made in AMD research, he cited the remarks made by Dr. Collins in a June 2010 appearance before the House Energy and Commerce Committee:

“Twenty years ago, we could do little to prevent or treat AMD. Today, because of new treatments and procedures based in part on NIH/NEI research, 1.3 million Americans at risk for severe vision loss over the next five years can receive potentially sight-saving therapies.”

In addition to offering Public Witness testimony in the House, NAEVR also submitted written testimony to the file of the Senate LHHS Appropriation Subcommittee’s March 28 hearing with Dr. Collins.