Medical Research Group Optimistic Trump Will Boost NIH Funding

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By Alex Ruoff

Nov. 15 — Medical research groups are confident that President-elect Donald Trump will support their effort to increase NIH funding in 2017 by nearly $3 billion.

Trump has been supportive of the medical research community, and congressional Republicans have signaled their willingness to bolster federal funding for cancer and biomedical research, Mary Woolley, president and chief executive officer of Research!America, told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 15. The group is asking Congress to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health in fiscal year 2017 to $34 billion from $31.3 billion the agency received in FY 2016.

“There’s going to be cuts [to federal spending] and there’s going to be money going to support infrastructure,” Woolley said. “That could mean the public health infrastructure and the research infrastructure.”

Research!America is gathering signatures from other medical groups and lobbying organizations for a letter to congressional leaders asking for the funding increase for the NIH.

However, there are concerns that Trump’s immigration platform could prohibit promising foreign scientists and researchers from coming to the U.S., John Zogby, a pollster and founder of John Zogby Strategies, said during an event examining the presidential election in Washington. Trump has taken a hard-line stance on immigration, vowing to halt immigration from some countries with large Muslim populations.

The Trump campaign didn’t release many positions on medical research, but Trump has said he supports funding for Alzheimer’s research. In an October 2015 radio interview posted by the left-leaning group Media Matters with conservative host Michael Savage, Trump criticized the NIH, saying “I hear so much about the NIH, and it’s terrible.”

Friends in Congress

Many of Trump’s domestic policy positions are unclear, but he and several of his key advisers have been supportive of federal funding for medical research and biomedical innovation, said John Porter, a former Republican congressman and Research!America board member.

Newt Gingrich, who is helping guide Trump’s transition team, has been a long-time supporter of the NIH and the medical research community, Porter said.

Also, some of the top congressional appropriators, namely Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), have supported funding increases for the NIH, Woolley said.

However, agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality are likely to see budget cuts under a Republican administration looking to slash federal budgets to make room for tax breaks, she said.

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