NIH Director Collins Downplays Budget Worries


 

Although President Donald Trump’s 2018 proposed budget calls for slashing the NIH’s funding nearly 20 percent, NIH Director Francis S. Collins doesn’t seem especially worried.

“We shouldn’t get too concerned at the moment about the need to shrink the [NIH] enterprise,” he said, speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Forum on Science and Technology Policy March 27. The dollars for many National Institutes of Health programs, such as the precision medicine initiative (now called the All of Us Research Program), the cancer moonshot and the BRAIN Initiative, have already been allocated through the 21st Century Cures biomedical innovation law (Pub. L. 114-255), he said.

And more money may be in the offing for the NIH, which is a perennial favorite among congressional appropriators on both sides of the aisle. Collins said appropriators told him they’re hoping to pass legislation by April 28 to provide additional money for biomedical research in FY 2017, with the House proposing an additional $1.28 billion and the Senate an additional $2 billion. That money would be included in appropriations legislation to fund the government for the rest of FY 2017 that Congress needs to pass by the end of April, when the current continuing resolution funding measure expires.

Despite Collins’ professed optimism, research groups are still sounding the alarm, with groups calling Trump administration budget cuts misguided.

“NIH-funded research is an engine for economic and medical progress, making the drastic cuts to the NIH proposed in the President’s initial budget doubly dangerous. These cuts will stymie the jobs creation and economic activity happening today as a result of NIH-funded research and they will slow down or completely stall critical research on a range of diseases, including some of our most costly health problems, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes,” Lizbet Boroughs, president of United for Medical Research, said in a March 28 statement.

And Research!America President and Chief Executive Officer Mary Woolley called the proposals to slash NIH grants and reduce funding for the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “a fast-track to failure against the goal of ending deadly and debilitating diseases.”

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