Wednesday, February 16, 2011

NIH Budget Request

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, NIH’s Director Francis S. Collins MD, PhD, and the other HHS top officials held a media briefing to clarify some of the details in the HHS FY 2012 Budget Request. Overall, the budget for HHS totals $891.6 billion in outlays with $79.9 billion in discretionary budget authority proposed.

For NIH, the FY 2012 budget requests $32.0 billion which is an increase of $745 million or 2.4 percent over the FY 2010 level. In FY 2012, about 83 percent of the funds appropriated to NIH will go out to the extramural community to support the work accomplished by more than 325,000 scientists and research personnel affiliated with over 3,000 organizations, including universities, medical schools, hospitals, and other research facilities. About 11 percent of the budget supports an in-house or intramural program for basic and clinical research activities.

Dr. Collins made some comments on the new proposed groundbreaking “National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences” (NCATS) included in the NIH Budget Request. The drug development process is complicated, expensive, and sometimes can prove to be either ineffective or perhaps dangerous to use on humans. As Dr. Collins pointed out, “In order to move drug research and discoveries forward at a fast pace and through the pipeline faster, the “translational medicine” approach is needed.

This translational approach would have government and universities working more effectively together to develop fast timelines for drug deliveries. A good example of how to increase drug discoveries and delivery via collaborative efforts, occurred in the 1980’s when a partnership was formed between scientists and clinicians at the National Cancer Institute, Duke University, and a drug company to help develop AZT to treat the HIV virus. Because of this intense collaboration, AZT was able to help patients and reach the marketplace in just two years.

By establishing NCATS, a number of trans-NIH programs that inherently are cross-cutting will work together. For example, the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN) would be able to play a leading role to accelerate the development of “high need cures.

One component expected to be a part of NCATS includes the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program. The budget requests $485 million for CTSAs to fund a nationwide consortium of biomedical research institutions to accelerate therapeutics development, engage communities in clinical research efforts, and to train clinical and translational investigators.

In addition, NIH in FY 2012 plans to provide support for $50 million to go to the “Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases” (TRND) program. TRND was the first program to create a drug development pipeline within NIH and works to stimulate research collaborations with academic scientists working on rare illnesses as well as develop partnerships with patient advocacy organizations, disease-oriented foundations, and others interested in treatments for particular illnesses.

To accelerate discoveries to develop more effective therapies for diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s it is vital to research the complex causes of diseases. To do this, investigators will need to take advantage of a number of technologies such as DNA sequencing, microarray technology, nanotechnology, new imaging modalities, and computational biology. NIH plans to support further development and application of these advanced technologies.

NIH’s aim is to not only spur the development of new treatments, but also to support rigorous programs to assess the effectiveness of treatments within populations and for individuals. This will necessitate more research to be done in personalized medicine to help provide the evidence-base for decision making needed today in clinical practices.

In addition, NIH will contribute $20 million to the “National Robotics Initiative” to study how to best use robots for home care, provide personalized care for special needs populations, accomplish wellness/health promotion, robot-assisted recovery, rehabilitation, behavioral therapy, and provide for surgical and interventional robots.

NIH estimates that it will support 9,158 new and competing Research Project Grants (RPG) in FY 2012 with the total number of RPGs expected to be 36, 852. The average cost of a new and competing RPG in FY 2012 will be about $433,000.