November 2009

ASBMB Advocates at NIH

Deputy Director Greg G. Germino and others at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases pointed to a number of mechanisms the institute has used to meaningfully fund and maintain the pre-eminent role of competitive, investigator-initiated research. Germino said that their priority was to fund the maximum number of individual investigators.

In discussions with Barbara Alving, director of the National Center for Research Resources, the committee members also expressed concerns about a shift in priorities to translational science programs from basic research infrastructure. Alving and other directors said they support the center’s new Clinical and Translational Science Awards, which will fund translational research at 60 institutions nationwide.

Berg assured the committee that basic research and infrastructure could remain a priority. It’s “not necessarily a zero-sum game,” Berg said.

The committee members emphasized that supporting individual investigators also meant cushioning the fall when NIH’s $10 billion in stimulus funding, much of which supported individual investigators, expires after 2010.

According to Berg and NIDDK officials, the large number of applications for the NIH Challenge Grants in Health and Science Research demonstrated an enormous unmet need for individual investigators, some of which could be attributed to decreasing institutional support. Berg said managing the potential 14 percent drop in funding in 2011 is priority No. 1.

While institutes will attempt to administratively cushion the landing, both the directors and the committee members question whether congressional funding will continue to support the new projects.

Kyle M. Brown is an ASBMB science policy fellow. He can be reached at kmbrown@asbmb.org.

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