NIH would get 2% budget hike under Senate bill

A U.S. Senate Appropriations subcommittee voted June 10 to give medical research a boost in funding to supplant the sequester cuts that hit the National Institutes of Health last year.

The draft bill provides $30.5 billion in funding--a $605.7 million increase--for NIH's 27 institutes and centers for fiscal year 2015, which begins Oct. 1. That amounts to a 2% gain for the agency, which is more than the $211 million bump that President Obama's budget allotted.

When the president rolled out his budget in March, science and industry groups criticized the plan, saying it fell short of reversing the damage done by years of flat funding to NIH and last year's across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration.

The proposed funding would also allow NIH to allocate $100 million for the second year of the Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, an increase of $60 million.

"Despite the difficult funding environment, we are pleased to see recognition of the critical role NIH plays as an economic engine and a driver of advances that improve patient's lives. NIH, which fuels extraordinary advances in human health, has lost more than 20% of its purchasing power in recent years to inflation and indiscriminate cuts," said advocacy group United for Medical Research in a statement in response to the markup.

The bill will next move to the full Senate Appropriations Committee. After that, the bill would need to be approved by the Senate and reconciled with the House Appropriations Committee.

For now, the fiscal 2015 budget--including for NIH--will likely be up in the air until after the November elections.

- here's the markup bill summary