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NIH Proposed Budget Highlights Genomics, Translational Efforts

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – In The National Institutes of Health's $31.83 billion budget proposal for 2012, NIH Director Francis Collins said the institute plans to focus much of its efforts on leveraging new genomics technologies in disease and health research and translational science, and in pursuing goals in personalized medicine.

Collins said the funding, an increase of 2.4 percent over the most recent budget to pass (2010), "will enhance NIH's ability to support research that prolongs life, reduces disability, and strengthens the economy."

The White House yesterday unveiled its budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2012 — a plan aimed at cutting spending in general by trimming in targeted areas, but which includes moderate increases for funding and supporting research and development.

Research-oriented groups appreciated that the President and his budget team spared science funding while making cuts to other programs.

"You clearly recognize that our future depends on research," William Talman, president of the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology, said in a statement.

"At a time when research funding for the current fiscal year is under attack, and the outcome is uncertain, we will call on Congress to follow your lead and keep funding for science and engineering research a national priority. Delayed budgets prolong uncertainty, and lack of predictable, sustained investments are harmful to our long-term progress," Talman added.

Collins said the time is "exceptionally ripe" for investments in certain areas, including programs to use DNA sequencing, microarrays, computational biology, and nanotechnology to accelerate new discoveries. Collins also said that the budget will fund research to assess the effectiveness of new therapies and study the comparative effectiveness of personalized medicine, as well enhance the career support and possibilities of young scientists through the NIH Director's New Innovator Award and the Early Independence Award.

Some of the federal funding amounts slated for science in the budget likely will be contested by Republican lawmakers during the budget process on Capitol Hill, as House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), recently announced plans to cut $100 billion from the 2011 budget, which is still being drafted to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year under a continuing resolution (CR).

As GenomeWeb Daily News reported last week, that plan would include cuts of $1 billion to the National Institutes of Health, $755 million to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, $186 million to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and $139 million to the National Science Foundation.

In a response yesterday to the White House's 2012 proposal, Rogers said that the plan "appears to be long on rhetoric and lean on spending cuts.

"We must go much further than this anemic effort of symbolic reductions and additional spending proposed under the guise of funding "freezes" if we are truly to get our nation's finances on a sustainable course," Rogers said.

Robert Berdahl, president of the Association of American Universities, said that Rogers' 2011 continuing resolution plan (H.R. 1) "contrasts sharply" with the Obama White House's 2012 budget, which he said shows a "continuing commitment to scientific research and innovation."

"[H.R. 1] would truly harm this nation's capacity for innovation by slashing research spending for nearly every agency that sponsors scientific research," said Berdahl. "This is exactly the wrong approach to deficit reduction, and it is our hope that the Senate, the President, and ultimately the House will agree on deficit reduction measures that enhance, not stifle, innovation and long-term economic growth."

Breaking Down NHGRI's Proposed Funding

The proposed $524.8 million budget for the National Human Genome Research Institute — an increase of $9 million, or nearly 2 percent, over the funding it received in 2010 — would include changes in funding for some programs to reflect shifting priorities at the institute. For example, the Medical Sequencing program will increase proportionally compared to a decrease in the Comparative Genomics Sequencing program. These and other changes will enable NHGRI to devote more of its overall large-scale sequencing resources toward projects aimed at understanding diseases.

The Medical Sequencing project would increase by $4.7 million to $71 million, while the Large-scale (Non-medical) Sequencing program would fall by $3.1 million to $11.9 million.

The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) program would receive a 2 percent increase of $672,000 to $34.8 million, which will be used in part to build on advances made using funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act over the past two years.
Research in the Genomic Variation program, which will focus much of its efforts on the 1000 Genomes Project, would increase by $400,000 to $20.7 million. New studies under this program will focus on understanding gene expression while continuing to support research into the role genetic variation plays in disease and environmental sensitivities.

The Computational Genomics program would receive $50.2 million, an increase of $970,000, to fund continued research into increasing data storage and distribution tools, and funding will go to support research resources such as genomic databases.

NHGRI's Technology Development program would receive $44.6 million, an increase of $861,000, for continued efforts to reduce the cost of DNA sequencing and to fund investigator-initiated applications aimed at developing new technologies for biomedical and translational research.

Other Basic Genomics programs would increase by 1.3 percent to $62.9 million for studies that will use genomic approaches to study biomedical problems, and to apply high-throughput genomics to study human biology and disease, among other efforts.

The Translational Genomics program would receive $22 million to fund efforts to combine advances in genomics with new approaches to population studies and to collaborate with other NIH institutes in the area of translational genomics.

The Electronic Medical Records and Genomics (eMERGE) program budget would more than double, increasing from $4.3 million to $8.7 million.

The 2012 budget plan also calls for increased funding for NHGRI's Intramural Research programs by $1 million to $105.2 million. The increase will be used to add physician-scientists to the institute's translational and clinical research programs, to continue to grow the ClinSeq program, and to continue to acquire and implement next-generation DNA sequencing technologies for use in research programs, such as human skin microbiome studies.