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Spending Proposal Would Restore $1B to NIH's Post-Sequester Budget

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A major federal spending bill that appears poised for passage by the US Congress would provide a roughly $1 billion increase to the National Institutes of Health for fiscal year 2014, compared with last year, when the sequestration cut NIH's budget by around $1.55 billion.

If the omnibus spending bill passes, the NIH funding level of roughly $30 billion would provide some stability to an agency that suffered a 5.5 percent cut last year. Although the proposal would represent a 2.9 percent increase for NIH year-over-year, it would still amount to a cut compared to fiscal year 2012, when it had an appropriation of $30.9 billion to work with.

Although the biomedical research community might emit a sigh of relief that the sequester appears to be in the past, critics noted that the proposed funding level would continue a long-term trend of flat funding and an agency budget that continues to slide against inflation.

Highlighting that concern was United for Medical Research President Carrie Wolinetz, who said last night that the omnibus spending bill, which will fund all the major agencies that receive discretionary funding, "falls short."

"The proposed package won’t adequately reverse the damage done by last year’s budget sequester and ensure the nation’s biomedical research enterprise makes continued progress in lifesaving research and development," Wolinetz said.

The investment researcher International Strategy and Investment Group said the proposed budget would restore "many (but not all) of last year's budget cuts to scientific research and university-based aid."

ISI estimated that the budget plan "should allow for low-single-digit growth in US academic demand during 2014," compared to the "flat-to-down year" of 2013, which was impacted by "sequester headwinds."

According to the bill summary provided by the office of Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D – Md.), the funding should allow NIH to continue all current research programs and to begin approximately 385 additional research studies and trials.