NIH set for $3B funding boost under Senate budget proposal

Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson has been called to testify at a March 7 Senate hearing regarding data breaches in the private sector.
The 2020 fiscal year gets underway at the start of next month. (Getty Images/lucky-photographer)

A Senate spending committee has proposed (PDF) increasing the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH's) budget by 7.7% in 2020. The $3 billion funding boost includes an additional $350 million for targeted Alzheimer’s disease research.

Despite President Donald Trump repeatedly threatening to cut the NIH’s budget, the agency has received more money in recent years as a result of support in Congress. That pattern looks set to continue in fiscal 2020, with the Senate Committee on Appropriations proposing another increase to the NIH’s budget.

Under the draft budget, the NIH would receive $42.1 billion, around 40% more than it had to work with five years ago. The Senate committee, which is proposing to give the NIH more money than its counterpart in the House, has earmarked some of the extra money for specific initiatives.

If passed, the Senate budget would give the NIH 14.2% more to spend on Alzheimer’s research. The proposal continues the trend seen over the past five years, during which time the NIH’s Alzheimer’s budget could quadruple to a forecast $2.8 billion for fiscal 2020. The budget features an additional $71 million for the BRAIN Initiative, which could improve understanding of Alzheimer’s.

The Senate committee also wants to pour more money into pediatric cancer research. The budget features $50 million for the Childhood Cancer Data Initiative. The $50 million is the first tranche of a forecast $500 million investment in pediatric cancer research at the NIH over the next decade. 

Other ring-fenced R&D funding includes a proposed $500 million for research intended to help end the opioid crisis, including through the development of alternative painkillers, and $6 million for HIV programs. 

The 2020 fiscal year gets underway at the start of next month, but it is doubtful whether the budget will pass by that date. If negotiations drag on, Congress could pass a temporary agreement to keep money flowing into the NIH and other government departments while work on the final budget continues.