The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is scrambling this year to spend a windfall of more than $150 million on pediatric research. And things could get a little hairy, judging from an outside advisory panel’s reaction Friday to the agency’s initial public airing of its plans.
“Given the diffuse nature of what you have described, and its complexity, I don’t want to use the word ‘nuts’, but it’s a daunting challenge,” Lila Gierasch of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, told principal deputy NIH director Lawrence Tabak after his presentation to a Council of Councils meeting in Bethesda, Maryland. “Thank you for changing ‘nuts’ to ‘challenging,’” Tabak replied, tongue-in-cheek. “We’re just trying to do what makes the most sense, and multiply the potential value of the resources available to us.”
The situation is certainly unusual for the $30-billion agency, where a succession of flat budgets has meant plunging success rate on grant proposals. But NIH is just following orders from Congress regarding two separate research initiatives to help children.