A 12-person “supercommittee” of Senators and representatives created to figure out a deficit-cutting plan, officially known as the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, failed to meet a November 23 deadline. However, members of that committee are expected to resume talks; if no agreement is reached this year, the automatic cuts are to take effect on January 1, 2013.
“We thought FY 2012 was difficult, but we probably haven’t seen anything yet,” Jon Retzlaff, managing director of science policy and government affairs for the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), told GEN. “We are cognizant that this is a difficult time, and we are in a challenging fiscal time. And policy makers must choose priorities and must have a balanced approach. The fear is that in this environment where they are just looking to squeeze government programs, you can’t cut the deficit on the backs of the domestic appropriations pool. It’s going to require a broad look at entitlements and our tax structure.”
“We think,” Retzlaff added, “when there is that overview look, that something like biomedical science, something like cancer research, will come to the forefront in terms of what really needs to be supported through sustainable annual increases in funding. But it’s going to take the entire biomedical research community to come together, to just talk about the exciting opportunities here, and how we can’t let them wither on the vine.”
One of those opportunities is NIH’s plan to consolidate programs from 20 institutes, three centers, the National Library of Medicine, and the director’s office into the new National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS). NIH director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., prevailed in securing Congressional approval to establish NCATS. He failed, however, to get the level of first-year funding that he wanted.
NCATS will begin operation with about $576.5 million in funds previously scattered among other centers within NIH. It is also nearly 18% less than the roughly $700 million sought by Dr. Collins when he first reported plans for this center earlier this year.