WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Health research is a potential winner in the new U.S. budget proposed on Monday, with the National Institutes of Health in line for an extra $1 billion — the largest increase for the agency in eight years.
President Barack Obama has put a heavy emphasis on medical research since he took office in January 2009, including an easing of restrictions on the use of stem cells imposed by his predecessor George W. Bush.
Obama’s budget plan for 2011 would provide $25.5 billion for six months to help prop up Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance plan for the poor, $1.4 billion for food safety efforts, an increase of 30 percent, and $3 billion for AIDS prevention.
It also proposes an expansion of health and food aid to other countries, especially for research into AIDS and neglected tropical diseases.
Much of the new money goes to basic medical research funded by NIH, which typically pays for projects at academic centers. Some is eventually licensed to drug and biotechnology companies to make into commercial products.
“From day one, President Obama has said we need to put science first,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a briefing. “And that’s reflected in our budget.”
The budget says: “NIH investments will focus on priority areas including genomics, translational research, science to support health care reform, global health, and reinvigorating the biomedical research community.”
Translational research means taking basic medical research done in lab dishes or animals into applications that can help people, while genomics is the study of the DNA map.
The plan asks Congress for $954 million for smoking prevention programs and $20 million for a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initiative to prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
The $911 billion Health and Human Services Department budget doubles funding to $561 million for a program aimed at stopping waste and fraud in Medicare, the health insurance plan for the elderly.
The total NIH budget rises to $32 billion in 2011 under Obama’s proposal, up from $30 billion in 2009 and an estimated $31 billion in 2010.
“This is the largest proposed funding increase for the National Institutes of Health we have seen in a president’s budget in eight years,” said Mark Lively of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.
The State Department would get more money for the Global Health Initiative, a coordinated approach for programs under the heading of global health and child survival, going from an estimated $7.8 billion in 2010 to $8.5 billion in 2011.
“We are focusing on connecting the programs,” said Jacob Lew, Deputy Secretary of State for management and resources.
He gave the example of a woman being treated for AIDS but getting prenatal care as well. “We see it as a whole different way of doing business,” Lew said.
The plan groups the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the President’s Malaria Initiative, as well as the President’s Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative and agriculture development and nutrition programs.
The budget also includes $10 million for a new CDC Health Prevention Corps to recruit and train experts in epidemiology, environmental health and laboratory science to work at state and local health departments.
Editing by John O'Callaghan