Perspective

House hearing opens with support for NIH funding, criticism of proposed cuts

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing on funding for the NIH. In opening remarks, the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies acknowledged the importance of investing in NIH.

Tom Cole, R-Okla., chairman of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, opened the hearing by stating, “Investment in NIH has been a key driver in making the United States the world leader in biomedical research and has led to vast improvements in life expectancy and the quality of life. The NIH is the primary source for funding for basic medical research, not only on the NIH campuses but also 2,500 universities and research institutions in every state.”

Cole lauded recent actions by Congress, including its $2 billion increase for NIH funding in 2017 and the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act last December, but expressed extreme disappointment in the cuts to the NIH budget proposed earlier this year by President Donald Trump. In his blueprint budget for 2018, Trump called for a reduction in NIH funding of $5.8 billion, and later called for $1.7 billion in cuts for the 2017 fiscal year.

“I’m concerned that the reductions and requests will stall progress that our recent investments were intended to achieve and potentially discourage promising scientists from entering or remaining in biomedical research,” he said.

The continued investment of NIH is “extraordinarily important” in bending the health care cost curve and protecting Americans from future pandemics, he said.

“Keeping America at the forefront is not only important for us in terms of our health care, it is important for our economy and frankly, it’s important for American global leadership,” Cole said. “It is something this country can be extraordinarily proud of as a contribution not only to the well-being of its own citizens but to people all over the world.”

Francis Collins, MD, PhD, director of NIH, thanked the subcommittee for its appropriations and investments in fiscal year 2017.

“Your sustained commitment to NIH will ensure that the U.S. will remain the global leader in biomedical research with all that means for human health,” he said.

Collins highlighted several areas of exceptional opportunity and transformational power of NIH funding including, pursuing treatments for rare diseases and advancing cancer immunotherapy.

“The next generation of innovative and passionate young researchers will be the most critical part of achieving that brighter future,” he concluded. “Our nation’s health and well-being depend on your strong support for them.”

Prior to the hearing, 28 major medical and scientific societies and research advocacy organizations penned a letter to Tom Price, MD, HHS director, urging him to protect the NIH and its Fogarty International Center, according to a press release.

In the letter, the organizations, including the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA), praised the $2 billion budget increase for NIH for the fiscal year 2017, but expressed deep concerns about the proposed cuts to medical research funding for 2018. The elimination of the Fogarty Center, which makes essential contributions to domestic and global health and health security, is of particular concern, the organizations wrote in the letter. They noted that more than 80% of the center’s grant funding supports academic institutions in the U.S. and has supported a wide range of diseases including HIV, tuberculosis, brain and nervous system disorders, cancer, CVD, cerebrovascular disease, stroke and chronic lung disease.

“The Fogarty Center has played a critical role in the development of effective domestic and global U.S.-led efforts to prevent and treat HIV and its accompanying health threats, including tuberculosis,” Wendy Armstrong, MD, chair of HIVMA, said in the release. “These efforts must be intensified if we are going to make further progress toward controlling the epidemic and toward the development of a vaccine and ultimately, a cure for HIV.”

The organizations strongly encouraged Congress to maintain vigorous investment in biomedical research. They noted optimism in the fact that the NIH has a long bipartisan history of support.

“Cuts to medical research funding threaten our ability to diagnose, prevent, treat and control diseases,” William Powderly, MD, president of IDSA, said in the release. “They will discourage new investigators from entering the field at a time when innovation is needed more than ever. Work supported by the [NIH], to develop new diagnostics, vaccines and therapies against emerging infectious diseases as well as the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance has never been more vital.”

Signers of the letter include the Consortium of Universities in Global Health, the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health, the American Thoracic Society, the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, the Alliance for Aging Research, and Research America, among others. – by Alaina Tedesco

Disclosure: Healio Internal Medicine was unable to confirm relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing on funding for the NIH. In opening remarks, the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies acknowledged the importance of investing in NIH.

Tom Cole, R-Okla., chairman of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, opened the hearing by stating, “Investment in NIH has been a key driver in making the United States the world leader in biomedical research and has led to vast improvements in life expectancy and the quality of life. The NIH is the primary source for funding for basic medical research, not only on the NIH campuses but also 2,500 universities and research institutions in every state.”

Cole lauded recent actions by Congress, including its $2 billion increase for NIH funding in 2017 and the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act last December, but expressed extreme disappointment in the cuts to the NIH budget proposed earlier this year by President Donald Trump. In his blueprint budget for 2018, Trump called for a reduction in NIH funding of $5.8 billion, and later called for $1.7 billion in cuts for the 2017 fiscal year.

“I’m concerned that the reductions and requests will stall progress that our recent investments were intended to achieve and potentially discourage promising scientists from entering or remaining in biomedical research,” he said.

The continued investment of NIH is “extraordinarily important” in bending the health care cost curve and protecting Americans from future pandemics, he said.

“Keeping America at the forefront is not only important for us in terms of our health care, it is important for our economy and frankly, it’s important for American global leadership,” Cole said. “It is something this country can be extraordinarily proud of as a contribution not only to the well-being of its own citizens but to people all over the world.”

Francis Collins, MD, PhD, director of NIH, thanked the subcommittee for its appropriations and investments in fiscal year 2017.

“Your sustained commitment to NIH will ensure that the U.S. will remain the global leader in biomedical research with all that means for human health,” he said.

Collins highlighted several areas of exceptional opportunity and transformational power of NIH funding including, pursuing treatments for rare diseases and advancing cancer immunotherapy.

“The next generation of innovative and passionate young researchers will be the most critical part of achieving that brighter future,” he concluded. “Our nation’s health and well-being depend on your strong support for them.”

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Prior to the hearing, 28 major medical and scientific societies and research advocacy organizations penned a letter to Tom Price, MD, HHS director, urging him to protect the NIH and its Fogarty International Center, according to a press release.

In the letter, the organizations, including the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA), praised the $2 billion budget increase for NIH for the fiscal year 2017, but expressed deep concerns about the proposed cuts to medical research funding for 2018. The elimination of the Fogarty Center, which makes essential contributions to domestic and global health and health security, is of particular concern, the organizations wrote in the letter. They noted that more than 80% of the center’s grant funding supports academic institutions in the U.S. and has supported a wide range of diseases including HIV, tuberculosis, brain and nervous system disorders, cancer, CVD, cerebrovascular disease, stroke and chronic lung disease.

“The Fogarty Center has played a critical role in the development of effective domestic and global U.S.-led efforts to prevent and treat HIV and its accompanying health threats, including tuberculosis,” Wendy Armstrong, MD, chair of HIVMA, said in the release. “These efforts must be intensified if we are going to make further progress toward controlling the epidemic and toward the development of a vaccine and ultimately, a cure for HIV.”

The organizations strongly encouraged Congress to maintain vigorous investment in biomedical research. They noted optimism in the fact that the NIH has a long bipartisan history of support.

“Cuts to medical research funding threaten our ability to diagnose, prevent, treat and control diseases,” William Powderly, MD, president of IDSA, said in the release. “They will discourage new investigators from entering the field at a time when innovation is needed more than ever. Work supported by the [NIH], to develop new diagnostics, vaccines and therapies against emerging infectious diseases as well as the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance has never been more vital.”

Signers of the letter include the Consortium of Universities in Global Health, the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health, the American Thoracic Society, the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, the Alliance for Aging Research, and Research America, among others. – by Alaina Tedesco

Disclosure: Healio Internal Medicine was unable to confirm relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.

    Perspective

    William G. Powderly

    • Today’s Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the advances in biomedical research led by the National Institutes of Health highlighted the bipartisan support that has made American scientific leadership possible. While members of the Labor and Health and Human Services Subcommittee expressed opposition to White House proposals to cutting $8 billion from the NIH budget for the next fiscal year, and to close the NIH Fogarty International Center, their briefing focused on the benefits that NIH biomedical research advances have produced, the role the Institutes play in building the next generation of researchers, and the value of scientific quests that can extend and improve millions of lives.

      Speakers emphasized that the proposed cuts would eliminate from 5,000 to 8,000 medical research grants, leaving answers to infectious disease threats and other illnesses out of reach. The closing of the Fogarty Center, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease director Dr. Anthony Fauci noted, would end global collaborations to detect, prevent and control emerging diseases where they originate, and end the training of scientists around the world who play leading roles in NIAID’s work from Ebola outbreak responses to Zika and HIV vaccine trials.

       We saw bipartisan appreciation for work accomplished and work ahead that is vital to infectious disease control, and  that we at IDSA and HIVMA have, and will continue to promote and support. The support we saw today for the global leadership of the NIH and its impact as an American economic engine make us hopeful that Congress will sustain robust research funding for the year to come. The magnitude of the damage the proposed White House cuts would inflict on future health, and health security, however, remind us to remain vigilant and vocal on these issues during the months ahead.

       Editor's Note: Powderly's statement was written on behalf of IDSA and HIVMA.

      • William G. Powderly, MD
      • President of the Infectious Diseases Society of America

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