In House Hearing, NIH Director Collins Discusses How Patients Are Engaged in NIH Research

In House Hearing, NIH Director Collins Discusses How Patients are Engaged in NIH Research

Legislative Update
April 2, 2019

NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD
NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD

On April 2, the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing on the President's proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with its Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD and members of his senior team (see box below).

Cong. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)
Cong. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)

In her Opening Statement, Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) recognized the Subcommittee's past bipartisan efforts that resulted in Congress passing a total of $9 billion in NIH funding increases in the past four fiscal years (FY2016 through FY2019). Criticizing the President's FY2020 budget proposal, which would cut NIH funding by $4.7 billion or 12.1 percent below the FY2019 program level of $39.1 billion and fund 3,800 fewer new grants, the Chairwoman stated that, “This Subcommittee will continue to invest in NIH research despite this Administration's shortsighted budget proposal.”

Cong. Tom Cole (R-OK)
Cong. Tom Cole (R-OK)

In his Opening Statement, Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK) also recognized the past four years of NIH funding increases (which occurred under his Subcommittee leadership) and stated that The President's budget proposal is not in the interest the American people, after which he cited numerous ways in which it could negatively impact the momentum of research. He also expressed his opposition to the President's request that Congress eliminate its prohibition of reducing grantee Facilities and Administrative (indirect) costs in NIH grants, stating that, it is an important protection for researchers.”

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) joined the hearing and promised to increase the NIH budget as much as we can, as it is not just about the numbers, it is about the passion and commitment of researchers for patients.”

In his brief testimony, Dr. Collins focused on patients who are involved in three NIH-funded programs, including: the All of Us Program, the 1 million patient cohort which is part of the Precision Medicine Initiative funded by the 21st Century Cures Act; Downs Syndrome research; and Sickle Cell Disease research. He and his colleagues then answered questions about a wide range of NIH research programs.

Most importantly, both Ms. DeLauro and Mr. Cole made closing comments that discussed the unique nature of biomedical research and their strong commitment to continued robust NIH funding. This is always an extraordinary hearing, and there are so many exciting areas of research. But we still have a long way to go with respect to understanding many diseases, as well as gender differences and racial disparities, said Ms. DeLauro. Mr. Cole commented that, Congress has always been ahead of past Administrations in understanding the importance of biomedical research funding. We regularly meet with patients in our offices and, frankly, not one of us has ever heard a constituent ask for NIH funding to be cut.”

The Subcommittee will hold a Citizen Witness Hearing on April 9, and Chairwoman DeLauro announced that she planned future hearings with other NIH Institute and Center (I/C) Directors.

The following Institute Directors joined Dr. Collins in responding to questions:

  • Diana Bianchi, MD (Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
  • Anthony Fauci, MD (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)
  • Gary Gibbins, MD (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)
  • Doug Lowy, MD (National Cancer Institute)
  • Nora Volkow, MD (National Institute on Drug Abuse)