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Obama's Budget Proposal Includes NIH Funding Bump, Supports Long-term Plan at NHGRI

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The federal budget for fiscal year 2014 that the Obama Administration released yesterday includes a request for $31.3 billion to fund the National Institutes of Health, which would be an increase of 1.5 percent over the budget it received in FY 2012, the last year the government passed a complete budget. In the current fiscal year, the government is funded under a continuing resolution that provided $30.8 billion for NIH.

The funding proposal in the White House plan does not account for any funding cuts that would be enacted due to the sequestration, which currently is set to slice 5 percent from all federal discretionary spending, but which could be averted if the president and Congress are able to reach a long-term agreement on reducing the federal deficit.

This budget proposal offers to replace the sequester cuts "with smarter ones," and offers "long-term reforms" that would reduce the deficit by $1.8 trillion over the next decade through a mix of spending cuts and tax changes to bring in more revenue, the White House said yesterday.

The increase at NIH of $471 million likely will not be enough to beat the expected rise in costs due to biomedical inflation, which NIH has estimated to be around 3.1 percent in 2014. In real terms the small boost will amount to a small cut, though NIH would welcome the increase in funding.

"The budget request allocates resources to areas of the most extraordinary promise for biomedical research while maintaining the flexibility to pursue unplanned scientific opportunities and address unplanned health needs," NIH Director Francis Collins said in his agency's budget proposal.

The Obama plan includes an increase of 1 percent for funding at The National Human Genome Research Institute, which would receive $517 million, or around $5 million more than in FY 2012.

NHGRI would use its funding to continue its long-term strategic plan of investing less in fundamental genome biology and more in pursuing efforts that aim to move genomics into clinical medicine. To that end, NHGRI plans to trim funding for efforts to understand the structure of genomes by $11.8 million, to $28.3 million, and to projects focused on genome biology by $12.5 million to $89.4 million.

In its funding request, NHGRI said it has been reducing investment in genome structure studies for several years, as knowledge in this area has steadily improved, and it said that the success of the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project has enabled it to begin reducing projects focused on genome biology as well.

Research projects aimed at using genomics to understand the biology of disease will see a boost of $10.8 million and will receive a total of $158.9 million, while projects focused on genomics education and training programs will increase by $7 million to a total of $28.5 million.

The FY2014 budget proposal also includes $5.1 billion for the National Cancer Institute, an increase of $63.1 million over FY2012. Also under the plan, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences would receive $665.7 million, up from $575.4 million in FY2012.