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National Institutes of Health would see 7% cut in 2021 under White House plan

President Donald Trump’s 2021 budget proposal would slash the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $3 billion to $38.7 billion, a 7% cut, while maintaining funding for a few priorities.

The budget includes $50 million for the second year of the administration’s Childhood Cancer Data Initiative, which the National Cancer Institute has been planning since last summer. In 2021, it would link existing childhood cancer databases, create a data commons for preclinical studies and clinical data, and fund research on rare pediatric cancers.

Support would continue for research on opioid addiction; influenza, including a universal vaccine; and AIDS as part of Trump’s goal to cut HIV infections 90% between 2020 and 2030.

One new priority is tickborne diseases, which were the focus of an NIH strategic plan released in October 2019. This area would receive $115 million for research, training, and clinical trials (compared with $56 million in 2019). Neonatal research would receive $100 million in new funding over 2020 and 2021. And $30 million would go toward speeding the manufacture of vectors, such as modified viruses, for delivering gene therapy and gene-editing tools into the body.

The budget includes $300 million to renovate NIH’s main campus in Bethesda, Maryland, in response to a report last year finding the agency’s aging facilities need four times that amount in repairs. 

Like past Trump requests, the proposal would fold the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) into NIH. The new National Institute for Research on Safety and Quality would receive $355 million, down from AHRQ’s 2020 budget of $445 million. Congress has rejected previous proposals to move AHRQ to NIH.

Biomedical research groups are reacting with dismay to the Trump budget proposal. The number of new and competing research grants funded by NIH would drop by 1874 from this year’s estimated 11,379, noted Ross McKinney, chief scientific officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges. At a time when the odds that a proposal will be funded are already low, “This would be devastating to American biomedical Science,” McKinney wrote on Twitter.