A House panel yesterday approved a 0.5% increase in the 2006 budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The $142.3 million increase, to $28.5 billion, matches the Bush Administration's request.
The modest rise falls far short of biomedical inflation of over 3%, say biomedical research supporters. Representative Dave Obey (D-WI), who voted against the bill, predicted that it would lead to fewer new grants. "We are concerned about the momentum of biomedical research being affected by this," says Jon Retzlaff, legislative relations director for the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Supporters hope that the Senate panel, chaired by Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), will continue its track record of bestowing more generous increases on NIH. The Senate panel could mark up its bill as soon as July.
The House subcommittee also appears to have sided with NIH in its fight with the American Chemical Society (ACS) over PubChem, a new NIH database holding data on biologically active chemicals. ACS contends that PubChem duplicates its own subscription-based chemical database. This spring, the ACS attempted to persuade NIH to scale back its efforts (Science, 6 May 2005, p. 774) and took its case to subcommittee chair Ralph Regula (R-OH), whose state is home to the headquarters of the ACS database.
In the end, a report accompanying the House bill does not ask the agency to restrict the scope of the database, but instead "urges NIH to work with private sector providers to avoid unnecessary duplication and competition with private sector chemical databases." Supporters of PubChem see the House language as a victory for NIH.