A Senate panel today approved a modest $100 million raise for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the 2013 fiscal year which begins on 1 October. The 0.3% bump to a total of $30.723 billion is slightly better than the president's request for no increase but disappointing to the research community.
Given fiscal pressures in Congress, "we're appreciative of any increase," says Jennifer Zeitzer, director of legislative relations for the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Still, she says, "It's going to be difficult for people in the research community. One-hundred-million dollars doesn't go very far."
The NIH budget is part of a broader spending bill approved today by the Senate appropriations subcommittee on labor, health and human services, and education. A summary of the bill also mentions NIH's Cures Acceleration Network. This drug development effort would receive $40 million, four times its current funding (but $10 million below the president's request).
The Senate vote would continue a trend of stagnation in NIH's budget, biomedical research advocates say. They argue that NIH spending in recent years has not kept pace with so-called "biomedical inflation"—the rate at which research costs escalate each year—and estimate that the agency's budget is effectively 17% below what it was a decade ago.
The full Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to vote on the bill on Thursday. At that point more detail on specific programs may become available.