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Bush's Proposed 2009 Budget Stalls Biomedical Research Funds

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) - US President George W. Bush today proposed a budget for fiscal year 2009 that would effectively freeze spending on biomedical research at 2008 levels, and would actually trim budgets for federal medical research when inflation is taken into account.
 
The $737 billion budget for the Department of Health and Human Services, which accounts for much of the federal backing for genomics, genetics, imaging, computational biology, and pharmacogenomics research, called for flat funding at the National Institutes of Health. It also recommended small increases at the US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that do not cover the extra projected costs of biomedical inflation, which the NIH projected last year to be an increase of around 3.7 percent.
 
Late last week, the Federation of American Societies for Experimenal Biology called for increases in funds for most of the agencies that back genomics research, including $31.2 billion for the NIH.
 
However, under the White House’s proposed budget, the NIH would receive $29.47 billion in FY 2009, the exact amount it was authorized for FY 2008.
 
The budget allots $488 million for the National Human Genome Research Institute, compared with $487 million in 2008. The National Cancer Institute would receive $4.81 billion in 2009, compared with $4.805 billion this year.
 
The White House asked for $1.938 billion for the National Institute of General Medical Services, compared with $1.936 this year, and $331 million for the National Library of Medicine, an up-tick of $2 million over 2008. 
 
The President budgeted $5.7 billion for the CDC, a dip of $433 million from $6.1 billion last year.
 
For the FDA, the president asked for $2.4 billion total program level spending, compared with $2.27 billion in 2008.
 
In a press conference today HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt delivered the White House’s budget proposals as “a warning” that spending on entitlement programs such as Medicare must be reined in, and efforts to trim costs clearly spilled over into the proposals for biomedical research spending.
 
Leavitt likened warnings about entitlement spending to the yearly blooming of the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC, saying they have become an annual event that Americans come to view as part of a natural cycle. After the “repeated cycle of alarms and inaction,” Leavitt said, “we hear the warnings and yet we do nothing.”
 
In the budget, the White House highlighted the importance of biomedical research, stating that “recent advances in genomics, proteomics, computational biology, and many other fields of science,” are giving researchers tools that will allow them a broader understanding of disease “years before it strikes the patient.”
 
According to the White House, these fields of research are the “cornerstone for efforts to transform the practice of medicine from one in which intervention is often indiscriminate and too late in the disease process, to one that will be personalized, predictive, and pre-emptive, with greater patient and community participation in the active management of their health.”
 
While the budget does not actually cut funding from the majority of the institutes and agencies that fund this type of research in terms of real dollars, the lack of accounting for inflation may lead to trimming for research at the program level in many areas. The NIH stated recently it is taking policy measures to adjust for flat funding.
 
FASEB President Robert Palazzo was not pleased with the president’s budget proposal and today released a statement saying that if the budget were to pass then it “would represent the sixth year of essentially flat funding for NIH.
 
“Although President Bush has given lip-service to supporting the search for treatment for diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, and pandemic influenza,” Palazzo added, “this budget again reveals his failure to uphold that commitment.”
 
The full budget proposal can be viewed here.
 

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