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Congress rejects Trump on NIH funding — a big win for medical researchers

Congress rejects Trump on NIH funding — a big win for medical researchers

Good news for the scientific community — as congressional lawmakers from both parties are disregarding President Trump's proposal to cut billions from the National Institutes of Health.

A bipartisan budget released Sunday gives the NIH an additional $2 billion for the fiscal 2017 year. That's the same increase given to the agency the year before under the Obama administration.

The spending bill is a sharp rebuke to Trump, who had proposed cutting $5.8 billion from the NIH in 2018, or roughly a fifth of its annual budget. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle balked at the idea of slashing investments in medical research, with top members of his own party even calling the plan "short-sighted." 

The budget from Congress funds many key initiatives introduced under President Obama, such as the Precision Medicine Initiative and Joe Biden's "cancer moonshot."

Among the biggest winners:

  • Cancer research. It provides an additional $476 million ($5.7 billion total) to the National Cancer Institute.
  • Alzheimer's. The budget adds $400 million ($1.39 billion total) for Alzheimer's research.
  • Teen pregnancy prevention. The new 2017 budget also keeps intact the $101 million Teen Pregnancy Prevention program. Trump proposed cutting the program in half.

(The Washington Post takes a closer look the budget's impact.)

Here in Rochester, news of the budget will be warmly received. Mayo Clinic relies heavily on the NIH to fund research at its campuses in Minnesota, Florida and Arizona. In 2016, the clinic was awarded $254 million to fund 463 research projects. The Rochester campus alone received more than $221 million in NIH grants.

(Back in March, we took a look at how Trump's budget proposal could impact Mayo Clinic. You can read that story here.)

It is unclear whether Trump will renew his commitment to slashing NIH funding once 2018 budget talks begin. But it does send a strong message to the scientific community that a bipartisan majority of lawmakers want to continue investing in medical research. 

As Lev Facher writes for STAT News, the budget agreement reached in Congress is a "firm repudiation of the Trump administration’s vision of a much leaner federal research program."

Cover photo courtesy Mayo Clinic

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