Donald Trump aims for $1.2B in NIH cuts this year

These cuts, alongside $18 billion in total that also hits education, housing and other programs, were set out in a list the White House budget office sent to the House and Senate Appropriations committees.

A source familiar with the proposal has shown this document to both Bloomberg and Politico and comes as Trump looks to make immediate cutbacks this year; his first budget, which wanted a deeper axing into federal programs, was designed to start from FY 2018.  Bloomberg is also reporting that there will be $40 million taken out from staffing funds at the FDA, achieved in part with “slower than anticipated hiring.”

Congress will have the final say as to whether these cuts go through; however, does not have to follow the White House’s wishes.  Trump wants to cut back on a number of areas in order to boost spending on the military, and store up funds for a proposed border wall with Mexico.

The plan to slash around 20% of the NIH’s budget from next year met with indignation from the likes of ASCO and some biotech CEOs this month, and the new $1.2 billion cuts for this year have also not gone down well.

UsAgainstAlzheimer’s said that “the administration’s proposed NIH budget cuts for FY 2017, a reduction of $1.2 billion from current levels, represent an assault on the hopes of millions with Alzheimer’s and related dementias who are desperate for a cure.”  Its co-founder and chairman, George Vradenburg, said “we remain deeply troubled by the administration’s attempts to undermine the recent progress that has been made to make cures and innovation in biomedical research and in Alzheimer’s research a higher national priority.  We will continue to work in a bipartisan way to fight back against budget cuts that will chill the efforts to cure Alzheimer’s disease, a disease that costs the nation today more than a quarter of a billion dollars per year.  Developing a cure for this dreadful disease is essential to avoid the inevitably increasing costs of managing it.”

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) said “once again, President Donald Trump has disappointed the scientific community by proposing billions of dollars in cuts—this time to the fiscal year 2017 budget.  In the President’s reduction request for FY17, he calls for a $1.23 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health budget.  To achieve that, he proposes eliminating new IDEA grants, worth $50 million, and taking $1.18 billion from the pool for new research grants.  After a year in which the NIH enjoyed bipartisan support that resulted in a $2 billion increase and passage of a massive legislative package supporting new research programs that will yield life-saving therapies for such diseases as cancer and Alzheimer’s and to improving the drug-discovery pipeline, the president and his budget team have proposed throwing progress out the window in favor of cutting nondefense discretionary spending.”  The ASBMB said that Trump is essentially proposing that the NIH fund 2,000 fewer grants this fiscal year, with a deeper reduction in FY18.  “The President continues to put the health and well-being of Americans in danger to move forward a so-called ‘hard power budget,’ even while leaders from his own party view investments in biomedical research as critical to the nation’s security.”

In late March, a new coalition has come out of the criticism to help preserve federal funding levels for the NIH, which were around $31 billion last year.  Details were thin, but the so-called Coalition to Save NIH Funding is said to be made of “stakeholders in healthcare, research, pharmaceutical development, patient advocacy and other non-profit organizations,” however, the group has not yet named names.

REFERENCE:  Fierce Biotech; 29 MAR 2017; Ben Adams

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