NAEVR Submits FY2019 Testimony to House Appropriators Requesting at Least $39.3 B in NIH, $800 M in NEI Funding

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 23, 2018
CONTACT: James F. Jorkasky
Executive Director
240-221-2905
jamesj@eyeresearch.org


NAEVR SUBMITS FY2019 TESTIMONY TO HOUSE APPROPRIATORS REQUESTING AT LEAST $39.3 B IN NIH, $800 M IN NEI FUNDING

(Washington, D.C.) Today, the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) submitted written testimony to the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee regarding Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Eye Institute (NEI) funding.

After thanking Congress for the $2 billion NIH funding increases in each FY2016 and FY2017, and the $3 billion increase in FY2018, NAEVR recognized that the increases “will help the NIH regain lost ground after years of effectively flat budgets that did not keep up with biomedical inflation”. NAEVR recommended that the House support FY2019 NIH funding of at least $39.3 billion, reflecting a “meaningful base budget growth [$2 billion] above inflation to expand NIH’s capacity to support promising science in all disciplines, and to ensure that the Innovation Account [created by the 21st Century Cures Act for special initiatives] supplements NIH’s base budget, as intended, through dedicated funding for specific programs”.

Noting that 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of the NEI by Congress as the lead Institute for our nation’s sight-saving and vision restoring research, NAEVR requested NEI funding of at least $800 million. The testimony noted that NEI’s enacted FY2018 funding of
$772.3 million is just ten percent greater than the pre-sequester FY2012 funding of $702 million— meaning that averaged over the six fiscal years, the 1.6 percent annual growth rate is less than the average annual biomedical inflation rate of 2.8 percent, thereby eroding purchasing power.

The testimony highlighted a number of important advances in vision science from NEI-supported research:

  • The NEI has been a leader in genetics/genomics research, with vision researchers having found for than 50 gene variants that increase risk for developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and 16 for glaucoma.
  • The NEI’s Audacious Goals Initiative (AGI) has been a leader in the field of Regenerative Medicine, currently funding major research consortia that are developing innovative new ways to image the visual system and identifying the biological factors that allow neurons to regenerate in the retina.
  • This year the NEI will launch the first-ever clinical trial in the U.S. to test tissues derived from induced pluripotent stem cells. Retina pigment epithelium—tissue in the back of the eye that supports the light-sensing cells in the retina—is being created in a lab starting with patient blood cells. These tissues, when mature, will be implanted in patients with AMD.

The testimony also highlighted cost-savings resulting from the past investment of $423 million by the NIH and National Science Foundation (NSF) in the development of Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), a non-invasive, high-resolution imaging technology that displays a three-dimensional cross-sectional view of the layers of the retina. According to a paper published in the December 2017 edition of American Journal of Ophthalmology, OCT has saved Medicare $9 billion and patients $2.2 billion in co-pays by reducing unnecessary injections of drug therapies to treat AMD. As this technology continues to be applied to new medical conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, it supports a private commercial market of $1 billion and more than 16,000 high-paying jobs.

The National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) is a 501(c)4 non-profit advocacy coalition comprised of 55 professional, consumer, and industry organizations involved in eye and vision research. Visit the Web site at www.eyeresearch.org.