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Draft Bill Seeks to Increase NIH Funding by $10B Over Five Years

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – A Congressional subcommittee has begun reviewing a draft discussion of a bill that would, among other things, increase funding to the National Institutes of Health and advance precision medicine initiatives. 

One year after Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Diane DeGette (D-Colo.) launched an initiative called 21st Century Cures, a subcommittee of the House's Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing today to discuss a draft of the bill. The nearly 200-page draft discussion covers a broad swath of topics covering biomedical research and drug discovery. 

Among its proposals is one that would increase mandatory funding to the NIH by $10 billion over a five-year period starting in Fiscal Year 2016. For FY 2016, the bill would provide $31.81 billion in funding to NIH. By comparison, President Obama's budget request for the same period calls for $31.3 billion for NIH, a $1 billion increase from FY 2015 funding levels. 

It also would provide NIH $33.33 billion in FY 2017 and $34.85 billion in FY 2018. 

In addition to the annual funding, the draft legislation would create an NIH Innovation Fund, funded at $2 billion each year for FY 2016 through FY 2020, for research initiatives directed at precision medicine, research conducted by promising young scientists, and a third category still to be determined. 

It also seeks to broadly define the roles of the US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary and the US Food and Drug Administration in advancing precision medicine. The secretary would be required to provide and update guidance and information to assist those practicing precision medicine.   

Also included in the draft discussion is the establishment of a biomedical research group tasked with reducing administrative red tape faced by NIH-funded researchers, "including with respect to the extent to which (and how) grant proposals, grant review, and management should be restructured, streamlined, and simplified." 

Some other provisions of the draft bill could meet resistance by researchers, including one provision that would allow the NIH director to require all data from research funded by the agency to be shared. Identifying information related to a human subject participating in the research, as well as trade secrets, financial, and other privileged information would be exempt from the provision, however. 

The draft discussion results from a year's worth of efforts by Upton, DeGette, and other members of the Energy and Commerce Committee to create a legislative framework for the 21st Century Cares initiative. In a statement on Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, of which Upton is the chair and DeGette is a member, said that in the year since the initiative was first announced, the committee has held eight hearings and issued several white papers, while committee members held roundtable discussions to gather ideas and information. 

"While we have made significant progress over the last year, there is still work left to do, and our staffs, as they have done for months, will continue working round the clock to ensure that the finalized legislation can gain broad support," Upton and DeGette said in a statement released yesterday.