In Hearing with Dr. Collins, House Appropriators Reiterate Concerns about Mandatory Funding for NIH in Presidents FY2017 Budget Request
March 16, 2016
NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) acknowledged that several Subcommittee members had visited the NIH campus on February 29, including full Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY), Cong. Charlie Dent (R-PA), Cong. Andy Harris, M.D. (R-MD), Cong. Mike Simpson (R-ID), and Cong. Steve Womack ((R-AR). He reiterated his concern that the President proposes 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 that we have made in increasing research funding. He again called this disheartening, adding that, Frankly, I do not plan to let the $1 billion cut stand, emphasizing that Congress needs to ensure a sufficient basic biomedical research base.
Full Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers (R-KY), who acknowledged his recent visit to the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center, echoed those concerns stating that, Funding must come through regular discretionary channels and not through mandatory funding, which is soaring out of control.
While promising that she would work with Chairman Rogers to ensure that NIHs discretionary base would not be cut, full Committee Ranking Member Lowey added that, despite the $2 billion FY2016 increase, NIH funding is still behind, expressing her concern for young investigators. As in the hearing with Secretary Burwell, Subcommittee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) cited budget constraints by sequestration and artificial budget caps as the driving force for why NIH funding is $7.5 billion below its FY2003 level, when adjusted for biomedical inflation.
In his verbal testimony, Dr. Collins built upon his written testimony by describing ten areas in which NIHs basic science is moving research forward:
- Analysis of individual cells and their functions.
- BI tools identifying brain cells and circuits, enabling earlier diagnosis, treatment and prevention of neurological conditions.
- BI imaging that may enable earlier diagnosis, especially in Alzheimers disease.
- New treatments for spinal cord injuries.
- Development of an artificial pancreas.
- Rebuilding a patients heart with his/her own modified cells.
- New vaccines, including a universal flu vaccine and an HIV vaccine in the next ten years.
- Using all of the new scientific tools to better understand and more safely treat pain.
- Precision medicine/tailored approaches to treat disease.
- Improved cancer survival, as a result of the National Cancer Moonshot.
Among the Republican members of the Subcommittee, Cong. Dent again expressed his strong concern for extramural researchers, noting that the budget only assumes mandatory funding for one year, resulting in a cliff due to the switch away from discretionary funding.
Committee members queried Dr. Collins and his colleagues about a number of key issues, including opioid abuse, the Zika virus, cancer, the application of precision medicine to various diseases, and childrens health. Directors joining Dr. Collins included:
- Anthony Fauci, M.D., National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
- Richard Hodes, M.D., National Institute of Aging (NIA)
- Doug Lowy, M.D., National Cancer Institute (NCI)
- Nora Volkow, M.D. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
In FY2016, the NEI budget finally had minimal growth (0.8 percent) above its FY2012 funding level for the first time in four years after the devastating impact of the $36 million sequester cut in FY2013. That trend to rebuild the NEI budget must continue through an increase in the appropriated base for the Institute. As a result, NAEVR is urging Congress to appropriate at least $34.5 billion for NIH and $770 million for the NEI in FY2017, a 7.5 percent increase over FY2016 for each that reflects five percent real growth above the projected 2.5 percent rate of biomedical inflation.