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US Representatives Sign Letter Calling for Increased NIH Funding

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – A group of more than 100 members of the US House of Representatives yesterday signed a letter urging the House Committee on Appropriations work with the US Senate to boost fiscal 2016 funding for the National Institutes of Health to $32 billion.

Earlier this year, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill that would increase NIH funding by about $10 billion over five years beginning in fiscal year 2016 when the agency would receive $31.81 billion. This summer, the Senate Committee on Appropriations approved a draft bill to give the NIH a roughly 6 percent year-over-year budget increase, bringing it to $32 billion in fiscal 2016.

The letter, addressed to Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY), calls for the House to work with the Senate to ensure that the NIH receives the $32 billion "in order to maintain America's role as a global leader in biomedical research and ground-breaking medical discoveries."

Over the last 12 years, the federal government has failed to raise the NIH's budget to keep pace with inflation, cutting its purchasing power by over 20 percent since 2003, the letter adds.

"Insufficient funding for NIH has a serious, wide-ranging impact on our nation's health and our capacity for medical innovation in the 21st century," the letter's signees wrote. "If we are serious about breaking new ground in our understanding of complex diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer, and if we hope to accelerate the speed with which new cures, treatments, and vaccines are developed, then it's absolutely essential that we increase funding for medical research at [the] NIH." 

After failing to come to a budget agreement by the start of fiscal year 2016 on Oct. 1, Congress passed a continuing resolution to maintain government funding at its current levels. However, that short-term spending bill expires on Dec. 11.

In October, NIH Director Francis Collins warned a Senate appropriations subcommittee of the "devastating" effects that Congress' failure to agree on a full-year budget would have on biomedical research.