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Acting Director Dr. Kington Updates House Appropriators on NIHís Implementation Of Economic Stimulus Funding

Legislative Update
March 27, 2009


Acting NIH Director Raynard Kington, M.D., Ph.D.
On March 26, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Acting Director Raynard Kington, M.D., Ph.D. testified before the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee on implementation of the $10.4 billion in NIH funding contained in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). He recognized Congress for its support of NIH through the stimulus dollars and the final Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 appropriations that increased NIH funding by 3.2 percent over FY2008.

Dr. Kingtonís testimony before the House appropriators built upon his November 13, 2008, testimony before the House authorizers, specifically the Energy and Commerce Committee, in which he detailed the economic benefits of investing in the NIH. At the most recent hearing, Dr. Kington quoted from recent studies which indicate that every NIH grant supports 6 to 7 in-part or full scientific jobs and that every dollar spent by NIH in local communities around the nation is leveraged on average three times its original amount. "These grants pay the salaries of scientists and technicians," said Dr. Kington, who added that, "the scientists and technicians, in turn, purchase goods and services in the communities in which they work and live."

Dr. Kington reported that the NIH was moving expeditiously to identify the best science and support it with the additional $10.4 billion provided by the ARRA to the NIH, obligated within the next two years. In addition to stating that NIH is now identifying and planning to fund those scientifically meritorious applications for two years (where the scientific plan is appropriate for a 2-year award instead of the usual 4-year award), he cited a number of new programs, including:

  • Challenge Grant Awards, representing the largest Request for Applications (RFA) in NIHís history. This 220-page document lists numerous topics in fifteen broad scientific areas that include bioethics, translational science, genomics, health disparities, enhancing clinical trials, behavioral change and prevention, and regenerative medicine. These are all areas that have been identified as benefiting from a jumpstart or in which a scientific challenge needs to be overcome. NIH anticipates funding this program at a level of at least $200 million.

  • Grand Opportunity Program, or "GO grants," which will support high-impact ideas that require significant resources for a discrete period of time to lay the foundation for new fields of investigation.

  • Signature Initiatives (SI), in which each NIH Institute and Center will identify at least one SI on which it will lead or coordinate trans-NIH research, in such areas as nanotechnology, genome-wide association studies, health disparities, autism, diabetes, genetic risk for Alzheimerís disease, regenerative medicine, oral fluids as biomarkers, and HIV vaccine research.

  • Academic Research Enhancement Awards (AREA), which will support small research projects in the biomedical and behavioral sciences in institutions that have not previously been recipients of NIH research grant funds.
He added that NIH is also in the process of requesting administrative supplements to promote job creation and retention, such as means to employ post-graduate students or to enhance capacity for data analysis.

In closing, Dr. Kington stated that, in the very near future, President Obama would present the details of his FY2010 budget request that will reflect an emphasis on increasing research, especially in the areas of cancer and autism. In advance of the Presidentís detailed FY2010 budget proposal, the House LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee already held a March 18 Citizen Witness hearing on FY2010 NIH funding.