Biomedicine wins big in US budget deal

A budget bill passed by the US House of Representatives boosts funding for several science-related agencies. Biomedical research advocates are revelling in holiday cheer as a budget bill passed by the House of Representatives on 18 December gives the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) its biggest funding increase since 2003. Several other science-related agencies also benefit substantially from the budget, which is expected to be passed by the Senate and be signed into law by President Barack Obama within a few days.

“Best Christmas present ever,” says Jennifer Zeitzer, director of legislative relations at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in Bethesda, Maryland. The spending bill allocates just over US$32.1 billion to the agency: a 6.6% rise over its 2015 budget. The agency’s funding has been flat since 2003, apart from a $10-billion windfall in fiscal years 2009 and 2010 that was part of stimulus package meant to lift the economy out of recession. After accounting for rises in research costs, funding actually fell by 20% during that 12-year period. The new budget, Zeitzer says, almost returns the NIH to its real 2003 level.

The NIH’s budget windfall is not just deep, but wide, too: the agency gets all the money it asked for to fund major programmes, including $85 million for the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative and $200 million for the Precision Medicine Initiative, a longitudinal study to track the health of one million Americans. The bill also boosts spending on Alzheimer’s research by $350 million, to bring total NIH spending on the disease to about $1 billion per year. The increase is the largest ever, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Several other research agencies have found gifts in the budget, which the House approved 11 weeks after the 1 October beginning of the 2016 fiscal year. NASA receives a bump of almost $1.3 billion over its 2015 funding, to $19.3 billion. That sum includes $175 million for a mission that will orbit and land on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa and search for signs of life. And the NASA budget includes $2 billion for development of the Space Launch System, a next-generation rocket that is meant to carry astronauts and probes on deep-space missions.

The 2016 federal budget passed by the House of Representatives on 18 December includes some healthy increases for science-related agencies compared with 2015. Some of the increases also exceed amounts requested in February by the White House. Figures are in thousands of US dollars.  Science Daily  Original web page at Science Daily