NIH Director Collins Optimistic on Funding for Medical Research

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By Dana A. Elfin

The budgetary sky isn’t falling for medical research, at least not according to NIH director Francis S. Collins.

Collins said March 27 he’s not especially worried about President Donald Trump’s proposal to cut the NIH’s $32 billion annual budget by nearly 20 percent for fiscal year 2018. He spoke at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Forum on Science and Technology Policy.

“We shouldn’t get too concerned at the moment about the need to shrink the [NIH] enterprise,” he said. 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.

Even More Money Coming?

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 they have 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.

Collins is one of a handful of presidential appointees whom Trump held over from former President Barack Obama’s administration.

Budget Is Only ‘Statement.’

“Congress fiercely defends their prerogative to make the appropriations,” Rush D. Holt, chief executive officer of AAAS, told the conference.

“The President’s budget is only a statement. Remember who makes the appropriations.” Holt was a House Democrat from New Jersey before leading the AAAS.

Ryan Hohman, vice president of public affairs at the Friends of Cancer Research, agreed that Congress, not the administration, holds the budget reins.

“Congress has true champions of biomedical research that would never allow the NIH or the [Food and Drug Administration], which are vital to advancing not only scientific discovery for patients, but also a huge economic driver, to be cut to the level proposed in the White House budget outline,” Hohman told Bloomberg BNA March 27.

“While we are used to Presidential budgets that support and increase NIH funding as a basic priority,” he said, “the impact of these documents on what is ultimately appropriated for NIH and other vital agencies like the FDA is fairly minimal.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Dana A. Elfin in Washington at delfin@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Randy Kubetin at RKubetin@bna.com

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