WASHINGTON--A $2.3 billion budget increase for the US National Institutes of Health that was passed by Congress late last month will include a 25.4 percent boost for the National Human Genome Research Institute in fiscal year 2000. Overall, $337 million of the $17.9 billion NIH budget is earmarked for NHGRI. The amount matches the Senate's proposal, and is $29 million more than the amount proposed by the House, and $62 million more than that proposed by the President.
Genomics and bioinformatics research within many other NIH institutes will likely benefit from large increases as well, although officials said specific breakouts that reflect overall NIH spending in those areas are not available. The National Library of Medicine, which houses the National Center for Biotechnology Information, will receive $215 million, nearly a 19 percent increase, in 2000. That amount is expected to permit NCBI a significantly larger budget than the $20.1 million it received last year, a source at the center told BioInform. The National Cancer Institute 2000 budget is $3.3 billion--nearly 15 percent more than 1999. (Those amounts do not take into account a 0.38 percent budget-wide discretionary spending cut that has yet to be delivered.)
The increase for NHGRI "comes at an absolutely critical time for the Human Genome Project," remarked Lyle Dennis, head of the Genome Action Coalition, whose testimony earlier this year before the Appropriations Committee helped achieve the hike. "They're on a full-scale sequencing effort and that funding will enable them to meet their target to have 90 percent of the draft sequence done by spring."
Calling Senators Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Representative John Porter (R-Ill.) "instrumental" to securing increased federal dollars for the Human Genome Project, Dennis said legislators have been consistently generous to the project since it began 1989.
The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology and the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research Funding, an organization of several hundred healthcare trade associations and research institutions, have also been advocates of increased funding for NIH and are among several groups that began campaigning in 1998 to double NIH's budget by 2003. Having won $4.3 billion in two years now, the agency's chances of achieving that goal, which many believed to be slim, look better.