Less Money, More Problems at NIH?


Next week, NIH Director Francis S. Collins is going to testify before the Senate health appropriations panel about the president’s 2018 budget request for medical research.

That budget request—in case you haven’t read the approximately 8,523,283 stories I’ve written on this (thanks a lot, people)—would cut the NIH’s budget by nearly a quarter of its current level, from $34 billion to $25.9 billion. Basically, the NIH would see its lowest funding level since the 1980s.

Collins has told both House and Senate appropriators for years that what the agency really needs are steady, predictable funding increases both to keep new innovations coming and to prevent the next generation of researchers from dropping out of science.

But Dr. Collins also just learned about two weeks before the hearing that the president decided to keep him on permanently, and his job as a presidential appointee is to present the budget in front of him.

I’m sure this won’t be awkward at all…

Both parties in Congress love the NIH and respect Dr. Collins. Both Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who heads this Senate health appropriations panel, and his House counterpart Rep. Tom Cole have indicated such steep cuts for the NIH are unlikely to happen.

Congress also just gave NIH two consecutive $2 billion annual increases, plus another $4.8 billion from 21st Century Cures. So a lot of folks, like Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Brian Rye, think lawmakers are unlikely to turn around and yank out $8 billion from the agency.

Stay tuned, Thursday, June 22 at 10 am.

Follow me at @MedResJourno for exciting live tweets…err, at least hopefully mildly entertaining ones.

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