Congress restores medical research funding through 2017
By Ilene Schneider
On Sunday Congress proposed a bipartisan budget that restored many of the cuts to medical research that President Donald Trump had suggested in March. The budget would only fund the government through the rest of fiscal 2017, but it does give medicine and science some much-needed assistance in several key areas.
A big beneficiary is the National Institutes of Health, which will receive a $2 billion boost in fiscal year 2017, equal to the previous year and bringing the agency’s total budget to $34 billion. The President had proposed reducing the NIH budget by about one-fifth, or $6 billion, in a draft 2018 budget, as explained in a Washington Post article by Ariana Eunjung Cha on May 1. Congress’s proposed NIH budget would maintain support for precision medicine and neuroscience, increase funding for Alzheimer's and cancer and beef up funding for antibiotic-resistant infections.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) will get an extra $476 million, bringing its total funding to $5.7 billion. One of the objectives of the increase is to continue research into early detection using blood tests for circulating “biomarkers” of cancer.
The proposed budget will provide an additional $400 million, for a total of $1.39 billion, for Alzheimer's research. Currently the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, Alzheimer's disease is likely to increase dramatically as baby boomers age.
The precision medicine initiative, which was championed by Former President Barack Obama in 2015, will receive an additional $120 million for a total of $320 million in the proposed 2017 budget. It will attempt to customize treatments based on a person's genetics and other individual characteristics.
Another $463 million of the budget is targeted at research on new antibiotics for pathogens that resist traditional drugs. World leaders held a summit last year to seeksolutions to this major threat.
The budget also includes $110 million to map the human brain. The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies(BRAIN) program is attempting to create a comprehensive guide to the anatomy and physiology of the brain.
Additionally, the proposed budget deal will increase funding from $150 million to $800 million to fight the nation's opioid epidemic through various government agencies. Other budget beneficiaries will be the Food and Drug Administration ($2.8 billion budget, a modest $39 million increase over last year), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) ($19.7 billion budget, is $368 million increase) and the national Science Foundation (NSF) ($7.5 billion, with a slight increase over last year).
As mentioned in this space when the President’s budget was first unveiled in March, the proposal was merely the first stage in a lengthy process. With a lot of tweaking and a lot of compromise, a number of important programs will be able to continue their quest to prolong and improve the quality of life in the United States and around the world – at least for the time being.