Senate committee approves funding increase for NIH in FY 2014

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would provide $30.95 billion in funds for the National Institutes of Health for fiscal year 2014--an increase of $307 million from the agency's current budget.

The bill offers a glimmer of hope to scientists who will inevitably feel the effects of sequestration, which cut NIH's budget by 5%--or $1.55 billion--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.

The sequester cuts will result in NIH cutting 703 competitive research project grants--to a total of 34,904 grants in the current fiscal year. Funding levels for National Research Service Awards, highly selective and prestigious stipends for doctoral and postdoctoral students pursuing behavioral and health science research, also will not increase for recipients this year.

"The Senate funding level for NIH replaces the funding lost due to sequestration and is a critical step in the right direction," said Dr. Margaret K. Offermann, president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, in an official statement issued Wednesday.

Of course, the full Senate and House will have to approve the bill first, and then President Barack Obama will have to sign off on the budget for the funding changes to go into place.

The proposed budget increase is only a meager bump considering NIH's 2012 funding level. Scientists and medical research advocates say a decade of flat budgets, in addition to the sequestration cuts, are slowing progress and creating job uncertainty for the next generation of researchers.

The Senate Appropriations Committee bill would also allow NIH to allocate $40 million for the new Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies, or BRAIN Initiative, rolled out by President Obama in April.

- here's the bill summary
- read the FASEB statement