publication date: Jul. 10, 2020

$5.275 billion for NIH is a healthy chunk of change—but read the fine print

By Paul Goldberg

This story is part of The Cancer Letter’s ongoing coverage of COVID-19’s impact on oncology. Our full coverage of SARS-CoV2 is available here.

A House subcommittee July 7 marked up a spending bill that proposes a $5.275 billion increase for NIH.

Depending on how you count, the bill that has cleared the Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies would provide one of the biggest raises in NIH history.

But here is what makes the measure controversial: Nearly the entire increase—$5 billion of it—comes in the form of emergency funding.

Advocates of boosting funding for biomedical research note that NIH should continue receiving increases consistent with raises it has been getting over the past five years, a period when NIH grew by $11.6 billion, or 39%.

On top of that, NIH should get separate funds for pandemic response costs through the next supplemental appropriation, cancer groups say.

How large should an emergency supplement be?

At a recent hearing, NIH Director Francis S. Collins estimated that it would cost about $10 billion to restart the labs and resume activities that were halted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alas, as they drafted the bill, the House appropriators were severely limited by the caps that increased total domestic discretionary spending by $25 billion from FY19 to FY20, but increased by only $5 billion between FY20 and FY21, to $626 billion. By relying on emergency funding, the House subcommittee’s version of the bill gets around the pesky budget caps, … Continue reading $5.275 billion for NIH is a healthy chunk of change—but read the fine print

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