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Francis Collins' Funding Problem

NIH is coming off a budget binge: the money given to the agency from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is about to run out. Next month, the last of the money will be disbursed and the recipients are required to spend most of it by September 2011, says Nature's Meredith Wadman. Now, researchers are looking to Francis Collins to figure out a solution. Collins has already weathered criticism that his Christian faith informs the way he does science, that he favors "NIH-initiated mega-projects over proposals by individual scientists," and that he overpromises on the possibilities of genomic research, Wadman writes. But even with all the challenges he has already dealt with at NIH, the biggest may be the budget. Even with President Obama's recommendation for a 3.2 percent increase to NIH's 2011 budget, Congress may not approve it. The agency has already been asked to cut programs from its plan for 2012 that amounts to about five percent of the budget for that year, Wadman says. Collins has some plans, like launching an award in 2011 that would make it possible for promising young investigators to skip the postdoc stage and give them five years of funding to open their own labs, and allowing NIH grantees to spend their ARRA money over more than two years, so the budget cliff is more of a "ramp." "I don't have any magic here," Collins says. 'I wish I did."

The Scan

Billions for Antivirals

The US is putting $3.2 billion toward a program to develop antivirals to treat COVID-19 in its early stages, the Wall Street Journal reports.

NFT of the Web

Tim Berners-Lee, who developed the World Wide Web, is auctioning its original source code as a non-fungible token, Reuters reports.

23andMe on the Nasdaq

23andMe's shares rose more than 20 percent following its merger with a special purpose acquisition company, as GenomeWeb has reported.

Science Papers Present GWAS of Brain Structure, System for Controlled Gene Transfer

In Science this week: genome-wide association study ties variants to white matter stricture in the brain, and more.