Alex Philippidis Senior News Editor Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

NIH will see a 1% increase and CDC a 0.6% increase over FY ’11 under a $1 trillion spending plan passed by the House and Senate.

NIH will see its budget for the current federal fiscal year inch up about 1% over FY 2011, while CDC funding will be flatter year-over-year at 0.6% higher in FY 2012, under a $1 trillion spending plan that has passed both the House of Representatives and Senate.

The House passed the spending plan 296–121 on Friday, and on Saturday the Senate followed suit voting 67–32 in favor of the measure. The bill, which funds the government for the rest of the fiscal year ending September 30, 2012, now heads to President Barack Obama for his signature. Both chambers had passed continuing resolutions (CRs) to keep government functioning past December 16, which was when an earlier CR expired.

Funding for NIH and CDC is included within the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The HHS, Labor, and Education departments are among 10 segments of the federal budget funded through this spending plan. The remaining three segments were funded through a bill approved by Congress and signed into law last month.

In its press release trumpeting the compromise, House Appropriations stated: “This bill assumes NIH will support the same number of scientifically meritorious research project grants as last year.” That language is expected to appear in the eventual Conference Report on the spending plan, though, it was not in the legislation itself or in a manager’s report highlighting details.

National Institutes of Health

House and Senate conferees agreed to increase NIH’s budget to $30.7 billion in FY 2012, up $299 million from the previous year but $758 million less than the $31.7 billion proposed by President Barack Obama. But when an across-the-board 0.189% recission to all programs was applied, the total budget was trimmed to $30.6 billion, and the increase to $240 million. Still, the news for NIH was better than it could have been, since the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a cut of 0.6%, or $190 million, to the agency’s budget in September.

“To some degree, when you look at previous years, it’s an early Christmas gift, from the standpoint that it erases some of the uncertainty that researchers have faced, and now it allows them to concentrate 100% on going forward in solving diseases,” Jon Retzlaff, managing director of science policy and government affairs for the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), told GEN.

AACR earlier this year called for lawmakers to approve a $33.3 billion budget for the agency, saying the extra funding was needed to pay for cancer research as well as make up for biomedical inflation.

Within NIH, Congress approved the creation of the National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS) with about $576.5 million in funds previously scattered among other centers within NIH. The money is 2.3% higher than its FY 2011 budget of $563.4 million, but 1% less than what Senate Appropriations proposed, and nearly 18% less than the $700 million spoken of by NIH director Francis Collins, Ph.D., when he first announced plans for this center earlier this year.

NCATS will include the Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases (TRND) program, whose funding will remain steady from FY 2011 at $24 million, as well as the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN), which will receive $10 million to support its activities. That’s half the $20 million approved by Senate Appropriations, and a far cry from the $100 million initially proposed by NIH for CAN.

CAN was authorized by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act enacted by President Obama last year but not funded until now. At the time CAN was envisioned to fund up to $15 million in grants annually to public and private sector R&D entities.

While CAN is still expected to fund grants, conferees said in a manager’s report that they “expect a high bar for any use of waiver authority for CAN matching funds; any use should be extremely limited to maximize funds toward the CAN goals.” Conferees also urged CAN to create general principles and measurable outcomes to track successes.

Among NIH’s three largest component institutes:

  • National Cancer Institute: The conferees approved $5.082 billion for NCI, up 0.5% from $5.054 billion in FY 2011, not counting $4.163 million shifted to NCATS. President Obama sought a $141.722 million, or 2.8% increase, to $5.196 billion.
  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: NIAID funding would increase nearly 0.5%, or $24.236 million, from about $4.475 billion in FY ’11 to $4.499 billion in FY 2012. This is nearly 8.5%, or $416.755 million, below President Obama’s proposal. The FY 2011 figure does not include $3.689 million shifted to NCATS.
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: Conferees agreed to spend $3.085 billion for NHLBI, down 0.5%, or $16.617, million from FY ’11, not counting $1.489 million shifted to NCATS, and down 2%, or $30.063 million, from President Obama’s request.

“In this environment, any increase is much appreciated,” Jennifer Zeitzer, legislative director for the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, told GEN. “It’s still not what we need in terms of the scientific opportunity, but compared with the direct cut between 2010 and 2011, it’s definitely moving in the right direction.”

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

CDC will see its budget barely change, moving up to $6.1 billion, an increase of just $38 million from FY 2011. President Obama sought a $269 million spending hike for the agency, to $6.393 billion.

Within CDC, the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases would receive $253.919 million, up $1.476 million, or 0.6%, from $252.443 million in FY 2011 but below the $289.118 million sought by President Obama. However, conferees urged CDC to expand efforts to develop improved diagnostic tools and tests for Lyme disease, study the feasibility of developing a national reporting system on Lyme disease, and expand public and physician education efforts to prevent Lyme and tick-borne diseases.

A significant spending jump will be seen by the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Funding will rise by 21%, or $100.326 million, over FY 2011 to $579.375 million, reflecting an expansion of the Section 317 immunization program. President Obama proposed spending $647.2 million.

Funding for the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities would rise by $2 million, or 1.5%, to $138.072 million. The president requested a 5.8% increase to $143.899 million. The entire $2 million increase will be spent to collect data on congenital heart disease.

However, CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response will shrink by $29.995 million, or 2.2%, to almost $1.307 billion from about $1.337 billion last fiscal year, reflecting a loss of State and Local Preparedness and Response Capability funds. The president’s budget proposal called for spending of about $1.423 billion.

Also set to lose funds in FY 2012 is CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, which would see its funding cut by $53.287 million, or 6.5%, to $760.7 million from $813.987 in FY 2011. President Obama sought an even further cut, to $725.207 million. Despite the spending reduction, spending for the National Lupus Patient Registry will more than double, to $4.462 million from $1.886 million in FY 2011.

Alex Philippidis is senior news editor at Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News.

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