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Senate panel wants NIH researchers to have a bit more funding.

Keeping busy. Senate panel wants NIH researchers to have a bit more funding.

Rhoda Baer/National Eye Institute

U.S. Senate bill would give NIH 2% raise in 2015

A U.S. Senate spending panel today approved a draft bill that would raise the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH’s) budget by $605.7 million, to $30.5 billion, in the 2015 fiscal year that begins 1 October. That modest 2% increase is good news for the agency; President Barack Obama’s budget proposal had requested a smaller $211 million increase.

The panel also approved the president’s request for a total of $100 million, a $60 million boost, for NIH’s share of the president’s brain-mapping initiative. It would also increase the National Institute on Aging’s budget by $100 million, which is enough to double spending on Alzheimer’s disease research for worthy research proposals, said the panel's chair, Senator Tom Harkin (D–IA).

The bill also restores sequester cuts to Institutional Development Awards, a program for states that have difficulty competing for NIH grants, said Harkin, who was presiding over his last markup of the massive annual spending bill that funds the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The senator, who has served as chair or ranking member of the spending panel for the past 25 years, is retiring next year.

“We’re very pleased. Given the overall fiscal environment, a $600 million increase is good news,” said David Moore, senior director of government relations for the Association of American Medical Colleges in Washington, D.C. Jennifer Zeitzer, director of legislative relations for the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in Bethesda, Maryland, said her group is hoping the increase is “the beginning of a conversation moving forward about real growth in the NIH budget” in fiscal year 2016 and beyond.

The bill moves to the full Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday. It will later need to be approved by the full Senate and reconciled with the corresponding bill from the House Appropriations Committee. That panel has not announced a schedule for marking up its bill, and final spending decisions are not expected until after the November elections.