NIH Director: Impending NIH Budget Cut Would Be 'Devastating'

Posted March 27, 2012

An impending 8 percent cut to the budget of the National Institutes of Health would have a “devastating” impact on medical research, NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, said at a recent conference.

The cut would take place automatically under the budget control law in January 2013, unless Congress passes and President Obama signs alternative plans to meet deficit reduction targets later this year. Because of the way budget funds are allocated, the cut would result in a dramatic reduction to the NIH grant pool, Dr. Collins said in remarks to a conference March 14 held by Research!America. NIH would be able to fund 2,300 fewer grants in fiscal 2013 unless Congress changes the automatic cuts.

Over the last nine years, NIH has lost 20 percent of its purchasing power for medical research as inflation has eroded the essentially flat budget, Dr. Collins said. If the cut takes place, fewer than one in seven grant applications would be funded, he said.

The Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee is scheduled to hold its fiscal 2013 NIH budget hearing on March 28, starting at 10 am ET.

Meanwhile in the House, 154 House members sent a letter to House Appropriations Committee leaders urging an increase to the NIH budget from the current $30.9 billion to “at least $32 billion” in fiscal 2013.

At a March 20 hearing, members of the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee praised NIH. Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) indicated that NIH is an area where “the federal government has a role because there are so many diseases that are suffered by people that will never have a cure because, unless the federal government gets involved in research, the economics just isn’t there.”

In response to a question from Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Dr. Collins described research investments internationally: “China just announced a 26 percent boost in one year for their support of basic research. India has been in double digit increases for several years. Europe, despite their difficulties, plan[s] to increase research spending by 40 percent over the next seven years. And even Vladimir Putin last week announced the intention to increase support for Russian basic research by 65 percent.”

The subcommittee will hold a public witness hearing on March 29, where ASCO will submit written testimony in support of $32.7 billion for NIH.

Continue to follow ASCO in Action for updates on the NIH budget process.

ASCO members can log in to the ASCO in Action Forum to discuss this and other policy issues.

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