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House funding bill will delay research progress and place new burdens on NIH

Bethesda, MD The fiscal year (FY) 2013 appropriations bill adopted by the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS) Subcommittee on July 18th fails short of the needed investment in biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and will delay efforts to improve the well-being of our nation's citizens, reduce human suffering, and protect the nation against new and emerging health threats. "We are deeply concerned that the LHHS Subcommittee provided flat funding for NIH when the opportunities for major advances are unprecedented," stated FASEB President Judith S. Bond, PhD.

FASEB has been advocating for an appropriation of at least $32 billion for NIH as the baseline funding to sustain the research that capitalizes on the increasing scientific opportunities and the demonstrated capacity of the research enterprise. "The proposed funding level is substantially below that necessary to sustain the current research effort. Without adequate funding, NIH will have to sacrifice valuable lines of research and lose talented young scientists to keep up with rising costs and a continued loss of purchasing power" said Bond. Failing to continue the federal investment in NIH could endanger the U.S.'s position as a world leader in biomedical research.

FASEB is also concerned that policy language included in the LHHS bill could jeopardize NIH's ability to manage its portfolio effectively. For example, the bill prohibits NIH from spending funds on any research project until the director certifies that the project is of significantly high scientific value and will have a measureable impact on public health. "The NIH already has a peer review process that ensures that the research it supports is scientifically valuable," said Bond. "Therefore, it is neither necessary nor feasible for the Department of Health and Human Services to review the tens of thousands of activities funded annually by the agency." Moreover, this stipulation could have a deleterious impact on NIH's ability to fund the basic science that lays the foundation for the biomedical research enterprise. Much of the research that NIH supports is aimed at discovering what causes disease and how organisms function, yet the impact these studies would have on human health is not always immediately obvious.

The legislation also unwisely prescribes the number of training awards that NIH should fund in FY 2013. NIH is currently in the process of reviewing and determining how to implement the recommendations of its Advisory Committee to the Director Working Group on the Biomedical Research Workforce. "Mandating a certain number of awards could constrain the agency's ability to support the optimal number of research trainees," commented Bond.

FASEB looks forward to working with Congress, NIH, and the research community to sustain the nation's commitment to biomedical research and ensure that any policy changes do not constrain agency efforts to facilitate long-term progress in science and technology.


Contact: Lawrence Green
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

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