The U.S. Senate has approved a budget bill for the 2019 fiscal year starting on October 1 that will increase spending for the NIH by 5.4% or $2 billion, to $39.1 billion.

By an 85-7 vote, the Senate passed H.R. 6157, an $854 billion “minibus” spending bill for FY 2019 that combined what had been separate measures for the Labor-Health and Human Services portion of the budget (S. 3158) and the Department of Defense (S. 3159). The minibus advances to the U.S. House of Representatives, where it is expected to be considered soon after the chamber returns into session from its summer recess.

The combined measure or Labor, Health & Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill included funding increases for several NIH research initiatives.

The largest year-over-year proposed increase is the $425 million increase, to $2.3 billion, for Alzheimer’s disease research. For the first time in any year, that level of funding will surpass the $2 billion funding goal for research laid out in the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, according to the Senate.  

Other significant NIH initiatives for which funding has been increased include:

  • The Clinical and Translational Science Awards program, an initiative of the NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) that would be funded at $560 million, a $17.32 million increase;
  • The National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (CARB), which would receive $550 million, up $37 million;
  • The BRAIN initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies), which would see $429.4 million in FY 2019, up $29 million;
  • The All of Us Research Program, the research cohort piece of the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) designed to glean health and wellness data from one million or more Americans, would receive $376 million, up $86 million;
  • The Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program, created in 1993 to broaden the distribution of states that receive NIH funding, would be funded at $361.8 million, up $11.2 million;

“For the fourth straight year, the Senate has provided record funding for biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health—$2 billion additional dollars in the first year, $2 billion the second year, $3 billion the third year, and $2 billion this year, which is a 30% increase over the last four years,” states Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions. “As a result of investing in our biomedical research, we will have more access to life-changing treatments and cures, and see more medical miracles.”

Added Alexander, “I continue to urge President Trump to make science and research part of his ‘America First’ agenda.” The senator noted the president’s signing of two earlier spending bills that provided record funding for science, technology, energy, and biomedical research—though Trump’s administration initially proposed NIH budget cuts early in his first year of office.

‘Significance Cannot be Overstated’

The minibus spending bill also includes $562 million, up $25 million from FY 2018, for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response; while $500 million would be set aside for NIH toward research on opioid addiction, development of opioids alternatives, pain management, and addiction treatment—part of a $3.7 billion package of measures to fight the nation’s opioid abuse epidemic, up $145 million from FY 2018.

Another $120 million would go toward research on the universal flu vaccine, a $20 million increase.

And $12.6 million would be spent for the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, an effort to develop a large-scale data resource to help researchers learn more about the biology of childhood cancer and structural birth defects, including the discovery of shared genetic pathways between these disorders.

“The significance cannot be overstated,” Mary Woolley, president and CEO of the research advocacy group Research!America, said in a statement. “During a time of extraordinary opportunities to advance critical research to combat deadly and disabling diseases, congressional leaders demonstrated their commitment to the NIH with robust funding increases.”

Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., president, and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), praised the Senate in an AAMC statement “for their dedication to the NIH and other programs along the healthcare continuum.” Dr. Kirch also thanked leaders of the Senate and its Appropriations Committee for their bipartisan commitment to bringing the bill to the Senate floor for the first time in over a decade.

“By providing an increase of $2 billion in funding for the NIH, this bill will enable the nation’s medical schools and teaching hospitals, which perform over half of NIH-funded extramural research, to continue to expand our knowledge, discover new cures and treatments, and deliver on the promise of hope for patients nationwide,” Dr. Kirsch stated. “In addition to benefiting the health of all Americans, this additional funding will support well-paying jobs across the country, strengthen the economy — nationally, regionally, and locally — and make America more competitive in science and technology.”

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