Alexander: U.S. Must Keep Advantage in Basic Research, Continue to Support NIH Breakthroughs

Posted on August 23, 2018

Alexander to NIH Director: “The reason Congress has devoted so much funding to biomedical research is captured in testimony you, Dr. Collins, made in April 2016, when you offered ten ‘bold predictions’ of what we might be able to achieve in the next ten years if we continued to invest in research.”

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 23, 2018 – Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said, “We often say it is hard to think of a major scientific advancement since World War II that has not been supported by federal funding – but we are not the only country to have figured that out.”

“There are two things I think we should keep in mind when we look at the large increases in funding Congress has given the NIH in recent years,” Alexander said. “First, we often say it is hard to think of a major scientific advancement since World War II that has not been supported by federal funding. But we are not the only country to have figured that out.  Other countries have seen that investing in basic research can lead to breathtaking new discoveries.  Since 2007, China has increased its spending on basic science by a factor of four and may surpass the United States in total spending on research and development this year…”

Alexander continued, “The second thing to keep in mind is that these large increases in funding for biomedical research and other increases for our national laboratories and other basic research are not the part of the federal budget that creates the huge national deficit. This spending is part of the so-called discretionary spending, which is roughly 29 percent of all federal spending and includes NIH, national defense, national parks, and national laboratories. Over the last ten years, this is the part of the budget that has grown at about the rate of inflation and over the next ten years, is expected to grow a little more than the rate of inflation.”

Alexander made his remarks today at an oversight hearing on the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Alexander outlined the work Congress has done to support biomedical research: “In December 2016, Congress passed what Senator McConnell called the ‘most important legislation of the year,’ the 21st Century Cures Act. We gave the National Institutes of Health $4.8 billion for the Precision Medicine Initiative, the BRAIN Initiative, Cancer Moonshot and regenerative medicine, as well as new flexibility and authorities to conduct the research that we hope will lead to breathtaking new medicines, treatments, and cures.

“And thanks to Senators Blunt, Murray, Durbin, Moran, and other Senators, the Appropriations Committee is on track to provide record funding through the regular appropriations process for the fourth year in a row,” Alexander continued. “First, Congress increased NIH funding by $2 billion in 2015; Then, we increased NIH funding by an additional $2 billion in 2016; And then in 2017, Congress increased funding for NIH by $3 billion, including $500 million to work on a non-addictive painkiller. … This means, if the bill we hope the Senate approves today is signed into law, Congress will have increased funding for NIH by $9 billion since 2015 – a 30 percent increase.”

See Alexander’s full prepared remark here.

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