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NIH Director Dr. Collins to House: “Least Favorable Environment for Young Investigators”

Legislative Update
March 4, 2015

Cong. Tom Cole (R-OK)
Cong. Tom Cole (R-OK)
On February 5, new House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Tom Cole (R-OK) met with research advocates and promised a series of timely appropriations hearings. True to his word, the Subcommittee held a March 3 hearing with National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., which was attended by all but one member. Although Chairman Cole was joined by members from both sides of the aisle in praising NIH’s accomplishments, he acknowledged the appropriators’ funding challenges in light of the Budget Control Act’s deficit reduction targets. “Sequester is the law of the land. We might not be able to do all absent a larger bipartisan budget agreement-which I hope that we achieve. I am especially concerned about young investigators.” Dr. Collins admitted that the issue of young investigators “wakes me up at night when I try to contemplate the future of where biomedical research can go in the United States,” adding that:
“They are finding themselves in a situation that is the least supportive of that vision in 50 years. They look ahead of them and see the more senior scientists struggling to keep their labs going and suffering rejection after rejection of grants that previously would have been supported. And they wonder, ‘Do we really want to sign up for that?’ And many of them, regrettably, are making the decision to walk away.”
NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
He also cautioned that, given current NIH funding that does not even meet inflation, the increased funding for medical research in other countries will result in the U.S. “relinquishing its historical international lead in biomedical research in the next decade unless certain measures are undertaken.”

NAEVR is urging FY2016 NIH funding of at least $32 billion and NEI funding of $730 million. For NIH, this reflects a 5 percent increase for modest growth and biomedical inflation (2.4 percent in FY2016). For NEI, the $730 million level reflects restoration of the remaining sequester cut and a 5 percent increase for modest growth and biomedical inflation.

Update:
The Subcommittee has set an April 29 deadline for receipt of written testimony to the hearing file. NAEVR will submit testimony similar to that which it submitted April 3 to the Senate Subcommittee.