Trump budget proposes 19 percent cut in NIH funding, leaving life science institutions reeling

As part of Trump’s budget proposal, he wants to chop $5.8B from the National Institutes of Health, or 19 percent, as part of a spending overhaul the Department of Health and Human Services.  The budget calls for a major reorganization of NIH’s institutes and centers, describing the move as a way to “help focus resources on the highest priority research and training activities.”

The proposal would also consolidate the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality within NIH, and it would also mean “other consolidations and structural changes across NIH organizations and activities”.

Life science institutions are horrified.

It seems like only yesterday that Congress was prepared to boost NIH spending by $2 billion  — the biggest increase in 12 years.

Here is a round-up of reactions from national and regional institutions.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network released a statement estimating that the NIH budget cuts were likely to cut $1 billion from the National Cancer Institute, noting it would be the biggest budget cut to the institution in its history.

Chris Hansen, president of the network said the cuts would be a significant setback for millions of American cancer patients, survivors and their families and would “dramatically constrain the prospect for breakthrough American medical innovation”.

For the last 50 years every major medical breakthrough can be traced back to investments in the NIH. Because of these investments, there are more than 15.5 million American cancer survivors alive today and researchers stand on the cusp of numerous innovative new diagnostic tools and treatments. From new immunotherapies that harness the body’s own immune system to destroy cancer cells to less toxic and more precise chemotherapies and advanced diagnostic and preventive tools.

“These developments save lives and spur economic progress. NIH-funded medical research is conducted in thousands of labs and universities across the country. These grants in turn spawn increased private investment and development. Drastically reducing NIH’s budget would jeopardize our nation’s potential to save more lives while simultaneously risking America’s position as the global leader in medical research.

The Science Coalition, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of public and private research universities offered a statement that put the proposed cuts in historical context and said they threatened the position of the U.S. as the world’s leader of research and development.

“Since World War II, America’s commitment to scientific breakthroughs has been a continual driver of U.S. economic growth. The personal computer, the Internet, smartphones are all based on research that had its beginnings in labs and centers funded in part by the federal government. The biomedical revolution with its advancement of disease-fighting vaccines and lifesaving drugs and the advance of diagnostic tools such as the MRI would not have occurred without federal support of collaborative research. And, most of the technologies that have made our men and women in uniform the world’s most effective fighting force, all had their start and ongoing improvements in federally funded scientific research.

“Other nations, particularly China, South Korea and India, are investing aggressively in discovery and innovation and are on the path to passing the United States as the world’s largest performer of R&D.”

Jon Retzlaff is the chief policy officer for American Association for Cancer Research, an organization whose 37,000 members include researchers and patient advocates who will feel the sting of Trump’s proposed cuts. He told The Philadelphia Inquirer:

” You have world-renowned institutions in Philadelphia that are reliant on federal funding and so this kind of proposal will set back the tremendous progress that those institutions are making,” he said. “I don’t think there’s ever been a more important time for us to be bringing together the entire medical research community.”

He added: “It’s unfortunate because now is the time to be pressing the accelerator, not utilizing the parking brake.”

University of Pennsylvania Health System is among the largest beneficiaries of NIH funding — amounting to $392 million for fiscal year 2016. Spokeswoman Susan Phillips told the Inquirer it planned to make a case for the NIH funding it receives and “highlight the value of the research we do for our country and in support of the nation’s position as a world leader in biomedical innovation.”

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