|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 22, 2007
|CONTACT: James F. Jorkasky
NAEVR COMMENDS SENATE EFFORTS TO INCREASE NIH/NEI FUNDING AND CITES JUNE 22 TESTIMONY BY NEI DIRECTOR
DR. SIEVING ON VISION PUBLIC HEALTH CHALLENGES
(Washington, D.C.) Today, the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) commended the full Senate Appropriations Committee for its June 21 approval of a Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) appropriations bill that would increase National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Eye Institute (NEI) funding by $1 billion and $14.8 million, respectively. NAEVR specifically acknowledged the leadership of LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) in developing a strong bipartisan bill that improves upon the President’s FY2008 budget request and stays within the Subcommittee’s 302(b) allocations.
"NAEVR echoes sentiments expressed by Committee member Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) that this is a 'benchmark piece of legislation', as well as Chairman Harkin’s comment that the LHHS bill 'defines the country' in terms of its funding for education, health, and social programs," said NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky. Although Jorkasky noted Sen. Specter's concern that the proposed $1 billion NIH increase barely keeps up with inflation, he announced that NAEVR would fully support the Senate bill since “it works toward increasing budgets which were reduced by flat-to-negative funding of the NIH during the past four years.”
This morning, evidence of this funding need was presented in testimony by NEI Director Dr. Paul Sieving in the last of a series of hearings with NIH Institute/Center Directors held by the Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee. "NEI-funded research has resulted in remarkable advances to save and restore sight," stated Dr. Sieving, who focused his comments on the vision public health challenge resulting from the aging of the baby boom generation. Citing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss, as an example of NEI research that meets NIH’s goals of research that is preemptive/preventive, predictive, personalized and participatory, he described NEI’s identification of genes associated with an increased risk of developing AMD; NEI’s demonstration that antioxidant vitamins and minerals can reduce the progression of moderate to severed AMD by 25 percent; and new Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved ophthalmic drugs that are stabilizing and restoring vision loss.
The Senate bill increases NIH funding by $1 billion to $29.9 billion, or 3.4 percent over FY2007, and increases NEI funding by $14.8 million over FY2007 to a level of $682 million, or a 2.2 percent increase, a rate by which most NIH Institute/Center budgets are increased. Since the bill also directly appropriates for trans-Institute NIH research within the common fund established by the NIH Reform Act of 2006, the NEI would not have to make an $8.8 million contribution to the common fund, meaning that those dollars can also be used for NEI programmatic purposes.
The National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) is a non-profit advocacy coalition comprised of 55 professional, consumer, and industry organizations involved in eye and vision research. NAEVR’s goal is to achieve the best vision for all Americans through advocacy and public education for eye and vision research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Eye Institute (NEI), and other federal research entities. Visit NAEVR’s Web site at www.eyeresearch.org.