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$10,000,000,000.00 for the National Institutes of Health

In the economic stimulus package, the biggest winner among U.S. science agencies is probably the National Institutes of Health, which will receive $8.2 billion for research. Another $500 million will be available for construction and renovation of NIH buildings, and an additional $1.3 billion will go to grantees to renovate their research facilities and to purchase shared equipment—a total of $10 billion in economic stimulus funds. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality will receive $1.1 billion, of which $400 million will be transferred to NIH.

The bill's total represents a major increase over the earlier House version of the bill, which set aside $3.5 billion for NIH. The extra money comes in part thanks to influential Senator Arlen Specter (R–PA), who added $6.5 billion in an amendment to the Senate bill. Specter, one of just three Republicans who voted for the compromise bill, is a cancer survivor who has long been a supporter of biomedical research. Specter said on the floor earlier this month that NIH had been “starved” in the years leading up to the stimulus.

“We're very, very appreciative of the stimulus monies,” says Richard B. Marchase, president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology and vice president for research at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. He and others expressed concern, however, that the increase in NIH's budget not be a one-time event. It should be, he said, “an investment the country can continue to make. The search for a better way of life and faster cures should be something that's sustained once the stimulus goes away.”