Biden Administration Releases Full FY2022 Budget Request, Proposing NIH Funding at $51.953 Billion and NEI Funding at $858.54 Million

On May 28, the Biden Administration followed the April 9 release of its “skinny” discretionary budget request with the full Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget request, inclusive of discretionary and mandatory funding.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Budget in Brief document presents an FY2022  National Institutes of Health (NIH) total discretionary program level of $51.953 billion, a $9.017 billion or 21 percent increase over the comparable FY2021 level of $42.936 billion. Included in this total is the proposed $6.5 billion for the new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Health (ARPA-H), which would be available through September 30, 2024. For NIH’s core programs [Institutes and Centers (I/Cs), special initiatives, Innovation Account supporting 21st Century Cures Act initiatives], the budget proposes $45.453 billion, a $2.517 billion or 5.9 percent increase for FY2022. For FY2022, NIH estimates that it will support a total of 44,343 Research Project Grants (RPGs), an increase of 2,260 above that in FY2021.

For the National Eye Institute (NEI), the budget proposes FY2022 funding at $858.54 million, a $22.83 million or 2.7 percent increase—slightly above the current biomedical inflation rate of 2.4 percent. In its Congressional Justification, NEI identifies its research priorities and states that it will support 1,257 RPGs in FY2022, an increase of 25 above that in FY2021.       

The DHHS Budget in Brief provides greater detail about the proposed ARPA-H initiative, designed to make pivotal investments to drive transformational innovation in health research and speed application and implementation of health breakthroughs to reduce illness and save lives. ARPA-H plans to work with industry, academia, nonprofits, and other federal agencies using traditional and non-traditional mechanisms to scale up projects with the most promise for improving health and saving lives. NIH will establish a federal advisory panel to provide an avenue for interagency coordination and idea generation. Although the President’s initial discretionary budget request stated that ARPA-H’s initial focus would be  cancer and other diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s, in his respective May 25 and May 26 appearances before the House and Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittees, NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD stated that “all I/Cs would be involved in the work of ARPA-H, offering up their best ideas for rapid translation of research that would benefit all Americans.”  

The NIH budget proposal does not include any funding for “research recovery” as a result of COVID-19 pandemic disruptions in research. At the May 26 Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Dr. Collins estimated that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a loss of $16 billion to the research enterprise—about $6 billion more than the $10 billion he estimated at the Subcommittee’s July 2020 hearing. In the 117th Congress, both the House (H.R. 869) and the Senate (S. 289) have re-introduced the Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act that would authorize $26 billion for research relief for federal scientific agencies, including $10 billion for the NIH.    

NAEVR supports the statement issued by the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, of which it is a member, that noted that the Coalition “is thrilled to see President Biden propose a bold, historic funding level for the NIH overall in FY2022, to amplify and build on the irreplaceable role of medical research in improving health and inspiring hope for patients and their families in the United States and around the globe.” The statement reiterates the Ad Hoc Group’s (and NAEVR’s) recommendation of no less than $46.1 billion for the NIH’s base program funding level in FY2022. The statement adds that, in regard to the proposed ARPA-H initiative, “To advance the transformative mission of this and targeted initiatives—and the NIH overall—it will be critical to ensure that funds supplement, rather than supplant, the core investment in NIH.”  NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky also added to the statement that, “As presented in the May 19 House LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee Public Witness Day testimony provided by Michael Crair, PhD (Yale University) on behalf of NAEVR, the vision community requests that Congress fund the NEI at a level of $900 million in FY2022, an increase of $64.3 million or 7.7 percent, that reflects both biomedical inflation and growth to restore NEI’s purchasing power, which is currently less than that in FY2012.”