A Paltry Raise for NIH

A House of Representatives spending subcommittee today approved a bill that would give the National Institutes of Health (NIH) a $727 million increase, to $28.5 billion, in 2005. Advocates for biomedical research were dismayed by the amount, a 2.6% hike that is comparable to the president's request but trails the annual rate of inflation for biomedical research activities.

The increase, for the fiscal year that begins 1 October, would be the smallest in 2 decades, says Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation immunologist Paul Kincade, president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). Kincade said today that he is "terrified" about the consequences for researchers, who had benefited from a doubling of NIH's budget between 1998 and 2003. FASEB predicts that because NIH plans to increase grant budgets at rates below biomedical inflation, both new and ongoing projects will suffer. "This is going to take an immediate toll on investigators," who may have to cut back on buying equipment and lab animals or giving technicians and postdocs raises, Kincade says.

FASEB and other advocacy groups are pinning their hopes on the Senate, which may not take up a comparable spending bill until after the Labor Day holiday in early September. FASEB's Howard Garrison says that Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), who chairs the panel, is pushing for a larger increase.