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Lawmakers Hew to 'Doubling' Track
NIH Gets Another Record Budget

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Though the agency had to wait nearly 3 months for it, and through a string of continuing resolutions that went into the teens, NIH emerged Dec. 29 with another record-setting budget for fiscal year 2001, totalling $20.3 billion, or about $1.5 billion more than the President had requested. The increase of nearly 14 percent over last year's mark of $17.8 billion keeps NIH on a pace legislators have set to double the agency's budget in the period 1998-2003.

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A new authorization law also directs NIH to create a new National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, which will be headed during the implementation phases by Dr. Donna Dean, senior advisor to acting NIH director Dr. Ruth Kirschstein.

Every component of NIH but one will realize an increase, ranging from a high of 29.3 percent for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine to a low of 13.4 percent for NEI and NIGMS; the Office of the Director, however, loses 24.3 percent of its budget as the former Office of Research on Minority Health leaves OD for the new National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, which is budgeted at $130.2 million in FY 2001.

NIH was also obliged to part with $5.8 million of its new budget, which reverts to the Department of Health and Human Services because the former Office for Protection from Research Risks, which had been part of OD, is now the Secretary's Office for Human Research Protection.

A summary of the appropriations bill included the following highlights: provides $75 million for extramural facilities construction grants; provides $500,000 for the Foundation for the NIH; provides $48.27 million for the operations of the Office of AIDS Research; provides $47.3 million within the buildings/facilities category for the National Neuroscience Research Center, which is to be named in honor of Rep. John E. Porter (R-IL), who is one of the godfathers of the effort to double NIH's budget within 5 years; permits the NIH director to enter into and administer a long-term lease for facilities for the purpose of providing laboratory, office and other space for NIA and NIDA biomedical and behavioral research at the Bayview campus in Baltimore; expands the intramural loan repayment program for clinical researchers from disadvantaged backgrounds to the extramural community; raises the salary cap for grantee scientists to executive level I from level II (the 2000 Executive Schedule annual rate is $157,000 for level I and $141,300 for level II); and extends the authority for the Physicians Comparability Allowance for 5 years.

In an interesting semantic move, the bill clarifies that the acting director of NIH may continue to serve under this title rather than principal deputy director (a designation required — by a different statute — for acting directors who have served in that status for more than 228 days) until a new director of NIH is confirmed by the Senate.

The bill also boosts from $60 million to $100 million the funds to be used by the National Center for Research Resources to commit to its IDEA (institution development and enhancement award) grants, which go to 24 states (and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico) that don't traditionally get much NIH grant money.

The appropriation bill further encourages NIAMS to support loan repayment for researchers working in the areas of childhood rheumatic diseases, and describes NIH's plan to provide $2.267 billion in AIDS research funding.

NIH is also asked to fund a National Academy of Sciences study of its own structure; the study is to determine if the current NIH structure and organization is optimally configured for scientific needs. House and Senate appropriations committees expect to receive a report with recommendations 1 year from the date of confirmation of the new NIH director.

NIH must also prepare, by July 2001, a listing of therapeutic drugs that are FDA-approved, have reached $500 million per year in U.S. sales and have received NIH funding.

Conferees strongly urged NIH to implement an intensified research effort regarding autism consistent with the Children's Health Act of 2000. The NIH director is asked to report to the House and Senate appropriations committees by Mar. 1, 2001, on a plan for establishing the Centers of Excellence on Autism program authorized in the act.

The legislation also urges the NIH director to designate the plaza in front of the James Shannon building (Bldg. 1) the "Paul G. Rogers Plaza" (acknowledging the former congressman who was a great friend to NIH) and to commemorate it in his honor.


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