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NIH's 2013 Budget Snips NHGRI by $1M, Favors Translational Science Center

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Obama Administration's proposal to provide flat funding of $30.7 billion next year for the National Institutes of Health, released yesterday as part of the overall federal budget, reflects both a tight fiscal environment and a small shift towards translational science at NIH.

Many NIH institutes under this plan would receive roughly the same amount of funding as this year. However, the National Human Genome Research Institute's funding would be cut $1 million to $511 million, while the new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences is marked for a boost of $64 million to $639 million.

The flat funding at NHGRI and increase for NCATS reflects a dramatic drop in the cost of sequencing genomes as well as an increased emphasis on clinical applications of genomic findings.

In the NIH budget proposal published yesterday the US Department of Health and Human Services pointed out that the cost of sequencing an entire genome over the years has dropped from over $100 million to about $7,700.

"Such a drop in sequencing cost is likely to lead to dramatic changes in how clinicians diagnose and treat disease and will enable researchers to make even more rapid and efficient progress in developing new diagnostic, treatment, and prevention tools. Additional new and innovative sequencing methods are also under development," HHS said.

"Investigators are better able to reap the benefits of basic research discoveries through advanced technologies such as DNA sequencing, microarray technology, nanotechnology, new imaging modalities, and computational biology. In FY 2013, NIH plans to support further development and application of these advanced technologies," it said.

The NCATS funding will come primarily from reallocated funds from the NIH Office of the Director, the dissolved National Center for Research Resources, and NHGRI. Its portfolio includes the Food and Drug Administration's Regulatory Science program, the Office of Rare Diseases Research, parts of the Molecular Libraries program, and the Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases program.

The 2013 budget proposal also would trim the budget at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering to $337 million, a dip of $1 million, and would provide $5.1 billion to the National Cancer Institute, an uptick of $3 million.

Also under the plan, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' allocation would increase by $10 million to $4.5 billion and funding for the National Institute of General Medical Sciences would fall by $48 million to $2.4 billion

NIH has estimated that it plans to support 9,415 new and competing research project grants in FY 2013, an increase of 672 above this fiscal year, and the average cost of these grants is expected to be around $431,000.

Also reflecting the shift toward translational research, the budget includes $50 million for the Cures Acceleration Network, an increase of $40 million, to fund science aimed at "high-need cures" and lowering "barriers between research discovery and clinical trials."

Around 10 percent of the total NIH budget, nearly $3.1 billion, would be allocated for research into HIV/AIDS.

In the proposal, HHS said that NIH will continue to emphasize programs that support "exceptionally promising new investigators" through the NIH Director's New Innovator Award, the Lasker Clinical Research Scholars Program, the Early Independence Award, and the Pathway to Independence Award.

Overall, 53 percent of NIH's budget would fund research project grants, 9.6 percent would support research centers, 10 percent would fund R&D contracts, and around 11 percent would fund intramural research. Five percent of the budget would support research management and support, and roughly 8 percent would be used to fund other research and the Office of the Director.