Researchers and MDA Speak Out on Capitol Hill Today

NIHToday, researchers from leading institutions around the country and MDA are visiting Capitol Hill to urge Congress to enact sustained and robust funding increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and to share with their members why the proposed funding cuts set out in the President’s budget blueprint last week would have negative impacts on the quest for treatments and cures, to innovation and to local economies.

Research is key to finding treatments and cures, which is why ensuring robust and sustained federal funding for research is one of MDA’s policy priorities. The federal government supports researchers through various programs, but NIH is the single-largest source of biomedical research funding in the United States. Private dollars from organizations like MDA also play a fundamental role in funding research. For example, MDA has invested more than $1 billion in research thanks to the support of donors, partners and everyone who buys an MDA Shamrock, puts a dollar in a fire fighter’s boot or joins an MDA Muscle Walk. While these contributions are significant and are moving the needle, the quest for cures — especially in the rare disease space — can only be successful with robust and sustained federal support for research.

During the past decade, investment in NIH has fallen short of what is required to meet our nation’s research needs and to keep up with increasing costs and inflation. Realizing this, Congress increased funding for NIH in fiscal year 2016 by $2 billion. Congress in 2016 also passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which included a funding increase for NIH. We are grateful for the recent funding bump, but further increases are necessary to keep pace with costs and inflation. While we are encouraged that both the House and Senate proposed funding increases for NIH in fiscal year 2017, there remains no final budget in place as of the writing of this blog, so such proposed increases have not gone into effect.

While we are concerned that the proposed increases for the current year have not been enacted, of greater concern is the NIH budget cut outlined in the President’s budget blueprint released a few days ago. The budget sets out a $5.8 billion cut to NIH (an 18 percent cut), which could unravel much of the progress that has been made in boosting NIH’s budget in the past few years and would have negative and long-lasting impacts on the research and therapy development space.

Fewer dollars for NIH means that good science will go unfunded, innovation and progress will be stalled, jobs may be lost and labs closed, and young scientists likely may be further discouraged from going into the field. While we appreciate that there are budget challenges, NIH funding is an economic driver — studies have shown that every $1 in NIH spending results in $2 of local economic growth. Funding the NIH is not just spending money, but it is investing in science, progress and jobs for Americans.

What we are asking for today:

Because Congress has the final word on the federal budget, we are today urging Congress to:

  • Support finalizing a FY17 spending package with an NIH budget of $34.1 billion, as overwhelmingly approved by the Senate Appropriations committee in June 2016; and
  • Support FY18 NIH funding at least $2 billion above the FY17 enacted level and to reject any proposed funding cuts to NIH.

We need your help:

We are grateful to the researchers who are joining us today — and we need your help in making sure that the message we are taking to Capitol Hill is heard by every member of Congress. If you are not already an MDA Advocate, please sign up today to receive advocacy emails and action alerts, so you can join us in ensuring that policymakers hear your voice on important issues like the importance of funding research.