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DelBene Leads Bipartisan Letter Urging Boost in NIH Funding

More than 100 House members signed the bipartisan letter urging congressional leaders to prioritize biomedical research by increasing funding for NIH.

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Washington, DC, November 18, 2015 | comments

Today, Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) led more than 100 House members in urging the House Appropriations Committee to fund the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at a level of at least $32 billion in any forthcoming appropriations legislation. The bipartisan letter was co-led by Reps. David McKinley (WV-01) and Chris Van Hollen (MD-08).

“Insufficient funding for NIH has a serious, wide-ranging impact on our nation’s health and our capacity for medical innovation in the 21st century,” the members wrote. “If we are serious about breaking new ground in our understanding of complex diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer, and if we hope to accelerate the speed with which new cures, treatments and vaccines are developed, then it’s absolutely essential that we increase funding for medical research at NIH.”

Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have approved funding increases for NIH in fiscal year 2016. The House bill (H.R. 3020) allocates $31.2 billion for NIH, while the Senate bill provides $32 billion for the agency in 2016 — a nearly $2 billion increase above 2015 levels. Neither bill has received a floor vote.

Federal funding for the NIH supports more than 300,000 American jobs at 2,500 research institutions across the country. Unfortunately, during the past 12 years, the federal government’s contributions toward basic research at NIH have consistently failed to keep pace with inflation, allowing the agency’s purchasing power to diminish by more than 20 percent since 2003. Budget cuts imposed on the agency during sequestration further exacerbated this trend, reducing NIH’s budget by an additional 5 percent in fiscal year 2013.

“Patients are waiting. Robust funding for the NIH will allow scientists across the country to capitalize on promising research opportunities that have languished for far too long,” said Mary Woolley, President and CEO of Research!America. “We sincerely thank Representatives DelBene, McKinley and Van Hollen, and all those who signed on to this letter for their commitment to achieving faster medical progress.”

“If we don’t have the next generation of researchers, we won’t have the next generation of lifesaving treatments for patients,” said Frederick R. Appelbaum, M.D., Senior Vice President at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. “We want to thank Congresswoman DelBene and all who have signed this important letter.  With her scientific background, Congresswoman DelBene is uniquely suited to represent us, and we are deeply appreciative of her understanding of the impact of NIH funding on the life sciences, particularly the Hutch.”

Among the organizations supporting the letter are: the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR); the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy; the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ASC CAN); the American Diabetes Association; the American Heart Association; the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI); the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC); the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU); the Coalition for Imaging and Bioengineering Research (CIBR); the Coalition for Life Sciences; and Research!America.

The letter is signed by 145 members of the House. A copy of the signed letter is available HERE, and the full text follows:

Dear Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Lowey:

As the House continues crafting appropriations legislation before the current continuing resolution expires on December 11, 2015, we write to express our strong support for increasing the funding provided to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In any forthcoming appropriations legislation for FY 2016, we urge you to work with your colleagues in the Senate to ensure NIH receives an annual funding level of at least $32 billion, equal to the level approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee, in order to maintain America’s role as a global leader in biomedical research and ground-breaking medical discoveries. 

We are concerned that, over the last 12 years, the federal government’s contributions toward basic research at NIH have consistently failed to keep pace with inflation. By failing to at least hold NIH funding constant with other rising costs, Congress has allowed the agency’s purchasing power to diminish by more than 20 percent since 2003. Indiscriminate budget cuts imposed on the agency during sequestration only further exacerbated this trend, reducing NIH’s budget by an additional 5 percent in FY 2013. As the growth in other countries’ investments in medical research continues to far outpace those made here in the U.S., it is more critical than ever that we act to reverse this trend.

Insufficient funding for NIH has a serious, wide-ranging impact on our nation’s health and our capacity for medical innovation in the 21st century. If we are serious about breaking new ground in our understanding of complex diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer, and if we hope to accelerate the speed with which new cures, treatments and vaccines are developed, then it’s absolutely essential that we increase funding for medical research at NIH. Particularly given the significant investments in NIH approved earlier this year by both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, we feel strongly that now is the time to commit to our nation’s long-term health and prosperity.

While we understand the difficult fiscal challenges you face, we urge you to prioritize the important role that NIH plays in biomedical research and economic growth by working to fund the agency at an annual level of at least $32 billion. Thank you for your consideration of this request, which will make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of Americans.

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