Congress gives NIH $2B funding increase
Congress gives NIH $2B funding increase

The budget agreement Congress reached tonight would give the National Institutes of Health a $2 billion increase for the second year in a row, a Senate GOP aide confirms.

The bipartisan agreement is in sharp contrast to President Donald Trump’s proposed fiscal cuts to both the NIH and EPA, although it is in agreement with his desires for increased military spending and infrastructure. This deal is only good through September 30, 2017, and therefore does not address funding in 2018.

The omnibus appropriations bill gives NIH $34 billion in funding. If the budget passes the full House of Representatives and Senate before Friday as expected, it will be the second consecutive year Congress has given NIH a $2 billion funding boost. Last year’s $2 billion increase was the largest funding boost NIH received in more than 10 years.

The funding hike includes an extra $400 million for Alzheimer’s Disease research, as well as an additional $476 million for the National Cancer Institute, with a focus on developing therapies to target gene mutations common in cancers. Former President Barack Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative gets a $120 million increase over FY2016, and the BRAIN Initiative will enjoy an increase of $110 million to map the human brain.

The bill also provides a total of $463 million, a $50 million increase from the FY2016 level, to expand efforts to develop new antibiotics, create rapid diagnostic tests and build a national genome sequence database on all reported resistant human infections. According to the World Health Organization, antibiotic resistance is one of the most pressing health crises of our time.

While Democrats are expectantly opposed to Trump’s NIH budget cuts, there have been a surprising number of Republicans who have expressed discomfort with the proposed fiscal blow to the federal agency that funds medical research across the country.

Of specific note is Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, who chairs the health appropriates subcommittee in the House of Representatives.

He tweeted this morning: “Proud to announce $2 billion funding increase for NIH. Will pave the way for new treatments and cures.”

“The investments we make in NIH research will not only save lives, they’ll lead to new frontiers in drug and device development that are critical for reducing health care costs, growing our economy, and maintaining America’s competitive edge in innovation,” Blunt said in a news release. “The funding provided in this bill reflects the priorities of the American people, and puts us on track to maintain a robust, sustained federal commitment to medical research. I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan bill, and I’ll continue working to ensure NIH has the resources it needs to give hope to more families battling cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic diseases.”

Blunt’s counterpart in the Senate, Representative Tom Cole (Oklahoma), has not put out a statement on the bill yet, but just a few days ago, was presented with the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement Humanitarian Award, which recognizes public officials who have made a significant policy contribution to advancements in research.

Cole was instrumental in increases for Alzheimer’s research funding at NIH for both FY2016 and FY2017 after his father died from Alzheimer’s and he witnessed the toll it took on his mother as the primary caregiver.

This morning, Vice President Mike Pence told the Associated Press the Trump administration “couldn’t be more pleased” with the bill, calling it a “bipartisan win for the American people” that prevents a government shutdown.

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