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Congress Proposes FY2011 Inflationary Increase for NIH Similar to Presidentís Budget

Legislative Update
August 9, 2010

As Congress left Washington for its August recess, both the House and Senate proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) spending bills that provided for a $1 billion, or 3.2 percent, inflationary funding increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to $32 billion. This was also the funding level proposed by President Obama.

The House bill had yet to be approved by the full Appropriations Committee, so only top line details were available. The Senate bill was approved by the Appropriations Committee and details were released, including funding levels for the Institutes/Centers (I/Cs) and corresponding Report Language. The Senate bill proposes NEI funding at $723.2 million, or a 2.2 percent increase. I/C increases range from 2.3 to 2.8 percent. The Presidentís budget had proposed a 2.5 percent NEI increase, but all I/Cs were tapped to underwrite funding of the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN) at $50 million. CAN, which was authorized by Congress at $500 million in healthcare reform legislation passed earlier this year [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, P.L. 111-148], but not appropriated funds, was created to assist NIH in "crossing the Valley of Death from bench to bedside," that is, the rapid translation of basic research into treatments. It remains unclear as to what extent the NEI and vision researchers may have access to CAN funds.

The Senate billís Report Language highlights how NEI is meeting the five research priorities as defined by NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D.—genomics, translational research, global health, research that supports healthcare reform, and efforts to reinvigorate the biomedical research enterprise. This language reflects NAEVRís written submission, which was also used as the basis of oral testimony provided by Neil Bressler, M.D. (Wilmer Eye Institute/Johns Hopkins) during a May 12 Citizen Witness hearing held by the House LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee on FY2011 NIH funding.

Although the medical research advocacy community, including NAEVR, had requested FY2011 NIH funding at $35 billion, it has thanked Congressional leaders for the $1 billion increase and their efforts to ensure that NIH funding keeps pace with biomedical inflation, especially in such a tight fiscal environment. However, NAEVR has cautioned Congress and the Administration that now is not the time for a less-than-inflationary increase for the NEI, in light of the vision impairment and eye disease challenges it faces during the Decade of Vision 2010-2020. NAEVRís Capitol Hill champions had urged an inflationary increase for the NEI, but as Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA) stated during a May 5 hearing, "Congress will be forced to make tough decisionsÖand some of our friends are not going to be very happy with some of the decisions we make."