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Senate Committee Passes $34B NIH Budget for Precision Medicine

A Senate committee has approved a $34 billion budget in 2017 for the NIH to further advance precision medicine research as well as chronic disease management programs.

By Jacqueline Belliveau

- The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee has passed an appropriations bill that would provide the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with $34 billion in 2017 in part to advance precision medicine research.

Precision medicine research gets a boost with new Senate bill

If the bill is approved by Congress, NIH would receive an increase in funding for the 2017 fiscal year in order to promote precision medicine research, especially for Alzheimer’s disease. The funding would also go towards supporting the BRAIN Initiative, which focuses on advancing neurotechnologies and understanding the human brain.

The new bill would increase the amount of funding for NIH by $2 billion compared to the 2016 appropriations bill.

“First, the bill provides a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health for research efforts that give hope to families battling life-threatening diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s, and to help more Americans live longer, healthier lives,” said Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), chairman of the Senate Labor-Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee.

Overall, the 2017 appropriations bill aims to increase the budget for several NIH initiatives, including some precision medicine programs. For example, $300 million has been allocated to the Precision Medicine Initiative, representing an increase of $100 million.

Chronic disease management research would also get a boost in 2017. The Senate approved a $400 million increase for Alzheimer’s disease research, which accounts for a total of $1.39 billion in funding for next year.

Other NIH programs have also been selected for additional budgetary resources. The following programs would receive an increase in funding:

• The BRAIN Initiative will see a $100 million increase in its budget to map the human brain, totaling $250 million in 2017;

• The Institutional Development Award will receive $333.4 million, representing $12.5 million more than last year;

• The Combat Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria program will see a $50 million increase in funding to total $463 million;

• And $12.6 million will go toward the Gabriella Miller Kids First Act.

The press release also noted that increases in budget have been made to “every Institute and Center to continue investments in innovative research that will advance fundamental knowledge and speed the development of new therapies, diagnostics, and preventive measures to improve the health of all Americans.”

While the Senate determines the NIH budget every year, this year’s appropriations bill has indicated NIH’s commitment to advancing precision medicine, especially as several federal agencies have continued to implement the President’s Precision Medicine Initiative.

Through the FY2017 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, the Senate will also fund several other healthcare-related initiatives, including Medicare and Medicaid fraud prevention and the Preventative Health and Health Services Block Grant. In total, the bill provides $161.9 billion in base discretionary spending, representing a $270 million decrease from the 2016 budget and a $2 billion reduction in the President’s budget request.

The 2017 appropriations bill was approved a couple days after the NIH announced the launch of the Genomic Data Commons in partnership with the National Cancer Institute. The new data repository will support the Precision Medicine Initiative and the Cancer Moonshot by providing large volumes of raw data for researchers and standardizing the information for easier access.

The Genetic Data Commons stores almost two petabytes of genomic data, which equates to nearly 223,000 DVDs of information. NIH expects the collection to grow as more participants volunteer their genomic and cancer data.

“With the GDC [Genomic Data Commons], NCI [National Cancer Institute] has made a major commitment to maintaining long-term storage of cancer genomic data and providing researchers with free access to these data,” said NCI Acting Director Douglas Lowy, MD. “Importantly, the explanatory power of data in the GDC will grow over time as data from more patients are included, and ultimately the GDC will accelerate our efforts in precision medicine.”

The 2017 appropriations bill intends to help the NIH develop and fund more precision medicine strategies, like the Genomic Data Commons. NIH has been a leading force behind the Precision Medicine Initiative, which aims to advance genomic research.

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