Budget Brief: Medical Research

(This is one of a series of Budget Briefs CRD Associates is posting on key facets of President Obama’s fiscal year 2013 proposal to Congress.)

While the president’s fiscal year 2013 budget sustains his commitment to double funding for key basic research agencies—the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) laboratories—the proposal takes a “hold steady” stance when it comes to medical research.

The nation’s single largest source of support for biomedical research, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is flat-funded at $30.7 billion.

Despite the overall freeze in funding, the budget plan touts a seven percent increase in the number of new and competing grants that will be funded. How does that happen with a flat budget?

Three reasons, according to budget documents. First, there will be a greater turnover in completed grants in fiscal 2013 than had occurred the previous fiscal year. Secondly, the duration of the average grant is shorter, thus freeing up more money. And thirdly, there will be a one percent reduction in non-competing grants.

The NIH budget request for the National Center to Advance Translational Science (NCATS) is up by $62 million, of which $40 million is an increase in the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN).

The budget includes $80 million in the Office of the Secretary that will be transferred to NIH from the Prevention and Public Health Fund specifically for Alzheimer’s disease research.

Also on the medical research front, the Department of Veterans Affairs program for medical and prosthetic research is held roughly steady, increasing from $581.0 million in the current year to $582.7 million in the president’s budget proposal. The reductions in research carry through most of the sub-areas within the category, suggesting little in the form of new priorities.

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