Draft House Bill Would Flat Fund NIH at $30.6 Billion

Jocelyn is a staff writer for Science magazine.

A draft spending bill released today by a House of Representatives subcommittee would give the National Institutes of Health (NIH) a flat budget of $30.6 billion in 2013. That matches the president's request and is $100 million below what Senate appropriators approved last month.

"Obviously we're disappointed that the number is flat," says David Moore of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) in Washington, D.C. It's not a surprise, however, because the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education had less overall money to work with than its Senate counterpart, he says. The subcommittee released the bill today and will vote on it tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.

The bill would also give $376 million to the Institutional Development Awards programs, a $100 million increase over the current level. The Administration had wanted to cut $51 million from the program to help certain states become more competitive for NIH funding; the Senate bill would keep funding level.

The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences would be flat funded at $574 million—$64 million less than the president's request. That center's Cures Acceleration Network would receive the same amount as this year, $10 million.

Moore says AAMC is also not happy with "prescriptive" language in the bill, such as a stipulation that NIH support 16,670 training grants. In tight fiscal times, the agency "needs more flexibility, not less," he says. And AAMC is concerned about the bill's proposal to cut the maximum salary that institutions can charge to NIH grants. Academic medical centers have already had to absorb a cut in the so-called salary cap passed by Congress last year, and the House figure is even lower. Overall, "there's not a lot of good news in the bill," Moore says.

The draft measure does offer some solace to those concerned about proposed changes to the National Children's Study, which will follow the health of 100,000 children from birth to age 21. It would give the study $175 million, an $18 million cut from this year but more than the $165 million requested by the president. The bill also puts a roadblock in NIH's controversial plan to revamp how pregnant women will be recruited for the study: NIH can make "no changes to the current design or Vanguard pilot structure until at least 90 days after the IOM [Institute of Medicine] conducts a review of the proposed changes and impact on the results."

Posted in Funding Budget_2013, NIH