A Dramatic, Unprecedented Increase
President Clinton on Feb. 2 unveiled a dramatic increase in the NIH budget for fiscal year 1999 -- more than $1 billion over the record-setting FY 1998 budget estimate of $13.648 billion, or an increase of 8.4 percent. So promising are the opportunities to build on the medical advances of the past that such an investment was deemed appropriate, said an accompanying rationale.
"The baby boom generation is greying and without more effective strategies against chronic diseases such as osteoporosis, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, and heart disease, the potential medical needs of this generation will place enormous economic and social burdens on their children and our nation," read the budget's opening summary. "The size of minority groups in our society is growing," it continued. "By working to eliminate the disproportionate burden of ill health and disability among minorities and the socioeconomically disadvantaged, we can improve the quality of life for many and also benefit the nation economically. To meet all of these challenges with improvements in patient care depends on discoveries; the proposed expansion in the NIH budget will accelerate scientific discovery and, thereby, lead to a new age in the practice of medicine."
Chosen as areas of research emphasis in the budget are: genetic medicine, the biology of brain diseases, new approaches to pathogenesis, advanced instrumentation, new strategies for prevention and new avenues for development of therapeutics.
The President's budget request includes a major expansion of NIH's cancer research portfolio. Nearly 90 percent of the cancer initiative will be supported through the work of the National Cancer Institute, but the initiative will also involve new and enhanced activities in at least 12 other institutes and centers. In FY 1999, NIH estimates that it will spend $2,776 million through NCI (nearly 90 percent) and $429 million through the rest of the institutes and centers, for a total of $3,205 million for cancer research. Diabetes research funding will increase substantially to $388 million.
Other examples of FY 1999 initiatives include projects targeting: a variety of disorders of the nervous system such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, mental illness, drug addiction, multiple sclerosis, and traumatic injury to the brain and spinal cord; cardiovascular diseases; asthma; infectious diseases; an AIDS vaccine (NIH is developing an intramural Vaccine Research Center to stimulate multidisciplinary research, from basic and clinical immunology and virology to vaccine design and production for early stage trials). The budget request also bolsters research training, infrastructure, shared instrumentation, new technologies (for large-scale DNA sequencing, and medical imaging), advanced computing and communications, and a reinvigoration of clinical research.
NIH's highest priority is the funding of basic biomedical research through research project grants (RPGs). In FY 1999, NIH will support 8,267 new and competing RPGs at a total of $2,281 million. Support for RPGs, including Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer awards will increase by nearly 8.3 percent over FY 1998.
The FY 1999 request for NIH once again asks that Congress appropriate all NIH AIDS research funds to the Office of AIDS Research. Support for AIDS research will increase by $124 million, or 7.7 percent over the FY 1998 estimate.
To attract high quality new researchers and provide effective research support, in FY 1999 NIH will continue the transition begun in FY 1998 to replace the First Independent Research Support and Transition Award (R29) as the primary mechanism of support for new researchers with the traditional (R01) research grant. New traditional research grants average approximately $200,000 annually and can compete for renewal, in contrast to FIRST awards, which limit funding to $75,000 annual direct costs for 5 years. Support for individual noncompeting RPGs will increase by 3 percent on average over FY 1998 levels.
A complete exposition of the President's request for NIH can be found on the Web at http://www.nih.gov/news/Budget99/BUDGET99.HTM.
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