NIH lays out effects of sequestration on biomedical research

The National Institutes of Health on Monday laid out the impact sequestration--automatic, across-the-board reductions in federal spending that went into effect March 1--will have on biomedical research.

Under President Barack Obama's fiscal year 2013 budget, NIH must cut 5%--or $1.55 billion--of its budget across all of the agency's programs, projects and activities. In 2012, NIH's total funding was about $30.86 billion. Under sequestration, that number will be slashed to $29.15 billion this year.

Due to sequestration, NIH said in this fiscal year the department will have to cut 703 competitive research project grants--to a total of 34,904 grants--and turn down 750 new patients from the NIH Clinical Center, a decrease from 10,695 new patients in 2012 to approximately 9,945 new patients in 2013. About one in every 6 grant proposals submitted to NIH gets selected for funding. Additionally, stipends for recipients of the National Research Service Award, highly selective and prestigious sources of funding for doctoral and postdoctoral students pursuing behavioral and health science research, will not increase.

The budget for the National Cancer Institute--the most highly funded branch of NIH--will be reduced to $4.77 billion from $5.06 billion over last fiscal year. Funding for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)--which represents another substantial chunk of NIH's budget--will be deflated to $4.23 billion from $4.49 billion.

The duration of most existing grants will not be shortened by the cuts, NIH said. So far, there are no plans to furlough or cut employees at its NIH campus in Bethesda, MD, or at the agency's off-campus facilities. According to an NIH statement, HHS is looking into other ways to cut costs, mostly in administrative areas, as NIH employee salaries make up a small percentage--about 7%--of NIH's annual budget.

NIH said the cuts will hinder the department's ability to develop better treatments for cancer and chronic conditions and could delay research on a universal flu vaccine.  

- here's the NIH sequestration fact sheet