The wait was long—but the news is good! If you’ve been following events on Capitol Hill, you already know this. NIH has received a $2 billion increase in budget for this fiscal year, reflecting much-appreciated bipartisan support for biomedical research. NIA’s own budget received a monster $400 million boost for Alzheimer’s-related research, and our budget for other research areas increased at the same percentage rate as the NIH budget.
The entire U.S. government, including NIA, is currently operating under an extension of a continuing resolution (CR) that will end on April 28…unless it is extended again, that is. A continuing resolution extends the previous year’s appropriations act, and the appropriations language within it, into the next fiscal year. It is usually minimally altered from the terms in the prior year. In other words, at this point in FY 2017, we’re operating with virtually the same budget we had in FY 2016.
I visited Cleveland over Thanksgiving. In a moment of peace from family conversations, I picked up the local paper. The first story I encountered was a long report on the Health and Retirement Study findings, funded by NIA, showing a substantial decline in U.S. dementia rates in the last 20 years. Then, I encountered a story reporting Eli Lilly’s negative clinical trial results on solanezumab. My immediate conclusion was that, no matter where I go, my job follows me!
It is April. Spring flowers, trees in bud, warming temperatures, and a funding update from NIA that is as natural as the Spring, and as welcome as the flowers? (OK. Not so much!) Still, it is good news for some.
As the funding policy statement makes clear, the fiscal year 2016 budget is a historic first for NIA. Yes, we received a very substantial increase for research related to Alzheimer’s disease—$350 million. But, in addition to that, we received a 4.2-percent increase in our general budget. That amount is above the rate of inflation for the first time since 2003, at the end of the era of doubling the budget. But, the competition for new and renewing awards remains fierce.
Next week, NIA’s National Advisory Council on Aging (NACA) will hold its first meeting of 2016. The January 20 public session promises to be particularly interesting. NIA Director Dr. Richard Hodes will provide some general background information on the FY 2016 budget for NIH and NIA. The session will also include NIH updates on research policy, as well as new scientific findings.
As we begin the new calendar year, I am happy to discuss exciting news about the NIH and NIA budgets for fiscal year 2016. As many of you probably know by now, on December 18, President Obama signed into law the FY2016 Omnibus Bill, which gave NIH an overall increase of $2 billion, or about 6.6 percent, above the FY2015 appropriation level. Importantly for NIA, this included an increase of approximately 33 percent over our FY2015 budget, which in large measure reflects some $350 million specifically directed to research into Alzheimer’s disease.
Two recent blog posts illustrate the complex challenge to NIA in its current budget planning. On the one hand, we have launched a substantial “short-term, high-priority” R56 award program in response to the intense competition for our limited pool of competing general research funds. On the other hand, we have announced the publication of 10 funding opportunity announcements with a primary focus on Alzheimer’s disease.
We’re trying something different this year in the face of the intense competition for funding—we are aggressively using the NIH R56 activity code for the first time. This award program provides one or two years of support to allow investigators to collect more data, develop more publications, or conduct any other activity that allows them to respond to comments made in the review.
Just last week, I had the honor of presenting, on behalf of NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, the first-ever NIH Professional Judgment Budget for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Outlined at the July 27 meeting of the HHS Secretary’s Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care, and Services, the proposal—commonly referred to as a Bypass Budget—lays out NIH’s plan to speed discovery into these devastating disorders, aimed at meeting the research goal of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease—to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s disease by 2025.