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Obama Calls for $33.1B in NIH Funding in FY 2017 Budget Proposal

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – President Barack Obama today released his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2017, calling for $33.1 billion for the National Institutes of Health to fund a range of biomedical initiatives including ones in precision medicine, cancer treatment and diagnosis, and brain research.

The money, which includes $1.8 billion in mandatory funding, would allow for nearly 10,000 new and competing NIH grants that would support efforts to "better understand the fundamental biological mechanisms that underpin health and disease to improve health and save lives," President Obama said in the budget proposal. The $33.1 billion would represent a roughly 3 percent increase over the $32 billion Congress approved for NIH for FY 2016.

The Fiscal Year 2017 budget specifically calls for $755 million in mandatory funding — $680 million to the NIH and $75 million to the US Food and Drug Administration — into preventing, diagnosing, and treating cancer. Combating cancer has become a key goal for the Obama Administration, which earlier this year established a "cancer moonshot" taskforce led by Vice President Joe Biden that will oversee efforts to eliminate the disease. 

The budget proposal also includes $300 million for the NIH to continue advancing the President's Precision Medicine Initiative, a program unveiled in early 2015 that seeks to advance personalized medical treatments and which received $200 million in fiscal 2016.

The initiative aims to, among other things, develop a voluntary national research cohort of more than 1 million people, obtain sequencing data for as many of those individuals as possible, identify genomic drivers of cancer, improve how next-generation sequencing-based tests are evaluated and marketed, and develop methods for managing and analyzing large patient data sets while protecting individual privacy. 

Under the President's 2017 budget, the NIH will also receive $195 million for the BRAIN Initiative, a program to advance the development of new technologies for imaging, mapping, and studying the brain.

This initiative, which received $150 million in Fiscal Year 2016, "has grown since its launch in 2013 to include five agencies, and dozens of major foundations, private research institutions, universities, companies, and advocacy organizations [that] have aligned their research efforts to advance the BRAIN Initiative," the President noted in his budget proposal. 

While US House of Representatives and US Senate members on both sides of the aisle have supported increased spending for biomedical research, the President's 2017 budget is expected to face stiff opposition from Republicans. 

Senate Committee on Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) said in a statement that the budget proposal contains "a troubling reliance on mandatory spending to skirt spending limits.

"There will be little appetite in Congress for mandatory spending that diminishes fiscal discipline and congressional oversight," he added. "The Appropriations Committee will review the proposals within its jurisdiction to determine which should be altered, improved, or eliminated."

In January, Cochran also announced that the Senate would not consider the 21st Century Cures Act — a sweeping House-backed biomedical research funding bill — but instead vote on separate narrower bills related to different aspects of the act. 

Meanwhile, House Committee on Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) called the fiscal 2017 budget proposal a "spending wish list," and said that the appropriations committee will hold "extensive oversight hearings and briefings to make informed, thoughtful, line-by-line funding decisions," he added in a statement. "At the end of the day, the 'power of the purse' lies with the Congress — not the White House — and we will use that power to decide what to cut and what to fund."