Senate panel approves $32 billion for NIH in 2011

On Thursday July 29, the Senate Appropriations committee approved a $32 billion budget for the National Institutes of Health as part of its 2011 spending bill.  After being approved by the Senate subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services on Tuesday July 27, the bill passed the full committee by a vote of 18-12, with voting split along party lines.  While including $50 million for a new translational research initiative, the committee’s budget falls well short of recommendations by ASBMB and other scientific societies.

In his remarks, subcommittee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said the bill addresses “today’s hard economic realities while taking every possible opportunity to reduce waste, fraud and abuse so as to reduce the deficit in the long run.”   U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., a staunch advocate for biomedical research, said the NIH budget is the single-most important component of the bill.

Following President Obama’s $32 billion request for the agency, the bill would increase the NIH budget by 3.5 percent over 2010, an amount roughly equal to the rate of inflation in biomedical sectors.  On July 15, the House Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education passed a bill containing the same overall NIH budget for 2011 as the Senate bill.

However, both the Senate and House committees’ budgets fall far short of the $37 billion recommendation of ASBMB and the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.  Taking into account that NIH stimulus money will expire at the end of 2010, FASEB calculates that the number of research projects funded by the agency may decline by more than 15 percent in 2011.

As part of the 2011 NIH budget, the subcommittee approved $50 million for the Cures Acceleration Network, or CAN, a new program for translation research created as part of the health care reform bill passed in March.

The Senate subcommittee bill can be found here.  Information about the corresponding House subcommittee bill can be found here.  Click here to read more about why FASEB’s is recommending $37 billion for the 2011 NIH budget.

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