President Barack Obama paid a visit to the National Institutes of Health this morning to announce that the agency has given out $5 billion in stimulus money for over 12,000 grants. The bolus of money, though only half of the $10.4 billion NIH received to spend over 2 years, is "the single largest boost to biomedical research in history," Obama said.
About 500 NIH institute chiefs, employees, and dignitaries gathered in an auditorium at NIH's clinical center for the announcement, where NIH Director Francis Collins and his boss, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, took the stage. Collins praised his staff's efforts to get the stimulus money out, which he said is "not just about doubling the recipe," but includes "some of the most innovative and creative directions for research that I have ever seen in 16 years at NIH."
He added that "millions of Americans alive today and millions more in future generations will live longer, healthier lives because of the grants we are announcing today."
Collins then introduced "our scientist in chief," President Obama, who had just visited a lab to see how brain cancer looks through a microscope. The $5 billion disbursed in the 2009 fiscal year, which ends today, will create "tens of thousands of jobs" through research staff, facilities construction, and orders for medical equipment, Obama said in a 15-minute speech. It will also help NIH recover from the last few years, when "we've seen our leadership slipping as scientific integrity was at times undermined and research funding failed to keep pace."
Obama highlighted three areas that the $5 billion will fund: an expansion of The Cancer Genome Atlas, which is assembling a catalog of mutations in tumors; studies on the genetics of heart disease; and research on autism treatments and therapies, the "largest-ever infusion of funding" for that area. The cancer atlas receive $275 million over the next 2 years, $175 million of it from stimulus funds.