Covered in Politico last week, looks like NIH is finally getting the attention it deserves and hopefully a much-needed boost in funding as well.
In summary, the “21st Century Cures Act” just passed the vote in the house of representatives (yippee), and now goes on to the senate. A lot of the provisions on this bill are administrative stuff (think: how long the NIH director can serve, etc); HOWEVER a key provision creates a new NIH Innovation Fund and calls for $9.35 billion in funding. This will be particularly helpful for those of us early in our careers.
After a dozen years of flat funding, the National Institutes of Health has become a top target on Capitol Hill — not for less money but more, potentially billions more by 2020.
It’s a remarkable turnaround for the huge medical research agency, one triggered by a confluence of circumstances. Fears that the United States is losing ground to international competitors in science and technology synched with lawmakers’ need to show frustrated voters that they can work in a bipartisan manner, and NIH offered “an easy win” on both, advocates say
Add in the institutes’ director, Francis Collins, a scientific celebrity with guitar-playing, motorcycle-riding everyman charm, who has wooed over 300 lawmakers in recent years. Plus crowds of patients flooding the halls of the Capitol and headlines about the fantastic promise of new cancer immunotherapies.
All of this has made for a billion-dollar movement — or $2 billion, as Senate appropriators have proposed adding to NIH’s budget next year. Even lawmakers whose usual mantra is fiscal restraint and less government spending are now among the agency’s most vocal cheerleaders.
If anything, said Emily Holubowich, executive director of the nonprofit Coalition for Health Funding, there’s “competition among lawmakers of who is going to save NIH first.”
As the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world, NIH has long had an aura about its work that gave it almost sacred space amid partisan bickering. Although that didn’t protect it from sequestration in 2013, the fallout may have been a blessing in disguise, underscoring the urgency for funding and reinvigorating efforts by advocates and the research community to help the agency regain ground.
“The broader pressures of sequestration and austerity” have “really put a lot of pressure on lawmakers, and rightfully so, that this is not acceptable,” Holubowich said.
Yet those other factors played heavily into the recent moves for greater resources. The emergence of key research-driven efforts like the president’s Precision Medicine Initiative and the House’s 21st Century Cures Act only intensified the interest.