Boost NIH funding

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Now is the time to focus our efforts and our research on medical advances. That is why I have proposed a $2 billion increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and reduced spending to pay for it.

Scientists are at the genesis of understanding the genetic and environmental factors that cause major diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Almost every American family has been affected by one or more of these diseases, and many have a painful story to tell about the impact not only on the patient but on the entire family.

To date, NIH-funded research has raised life expectancy, improved quality of life, and is an economic engine helping to sustain American competitiveness. NIH-funded biomedical research is the catalyst behind many of the advances that are now helping Americans live longer and healthier lives. NIH efforts are worthy of continued investment.

Over the past year, cutting-edge NIH-supported research identified a set of 10 compounds in blood that might be used to distinguish the risk for developing memory deficits or Alzheimer’s disease, designed and tested a class of new antibiotics to treat tuberculosis, and helped paralyzed individuals regain some movement after receiving spinal stimulation. 

A bold commitment to the NIH is essential to address our nation’s growing health concerns, spur medical innovation, sustain America’s competitiveness and reduce healthcare costs.

The appropriations bill we will vote on tomorrow in the Senate Appropriations Committee funds a revolutionary new concept called Precision Medicine, which would address the reactionary and imprecise way in which we currently treat disease. 

Precision Medicine will allow physicians to individualize treatments to patients based on their unique genetic makeup. Precision Medicine will give a physician the potential to specifically target a cure rather than move forward with a one-size-fits all treatment.

We increase funding by approximately $350 million for research into Alzheimer’s disease. Every 68 seconds, someone in America develops Alzheimer’s disease, and it currently affects more than 5 million Americans age 65 and older. 

Yet for every $260 Medicare and Medicaid spend on caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, the federal government spends only $1 on Alzheimer’s research. Further NIH-funded research is the best way to manage this disease in the future.

Finally, I believe we must recognize the growing public health threat of antibiotic resistance. 

Antibiotics have been used to successfully treat patients for more than 70 years, but over time the drugs have become less effective, as organisms adapt to the drugs designed to kill them. 

My bill provides $100 million in new funding to expand efforts to develop new antibiotics, create rapid diagnostic tests and build a national genome sequence database on all reported resistant human infections.

Funding for the NIH lays the foundation for drug and device discoveries over the next decade. Biomedical research is the answer to lowering our nation’s healthcare costs. 

Research funded by the NIH has prevented immeasurable human suffering and has yielded economic benefits as well, thanks to Americans living longer, healthier and more productive lives. 

Whether it is finding new ways to treat cancer or leukemia, prevent Alzheimer’s disease or help people suffering from other rare or common conditions, many of the answers will continue to be through the NIH.

Between 1998 and 2003, NIH research funding doubled, but over the past decade, NIH has lost 22 percent of its purchasing power for research. I believe funding decisions represent more than just a dollar figure. They reflect our nation’s priorities. As Congress faces unprecedented challenges to reduce government spending, this is the time to reevaluate our federal funding decisions and priorities. I believe a federal priority must be biomedical research. I look forward to moving my appropriations bill through the committee and working with my Senate colleagues to ensure we prioritize the NIH. This is a time of promise in medical research and the United States should be at the forefront of this era. To do so, we must commit to paying for the research to do it.

As the chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the NIH, I have proposed an appropriations bill that will do just that by providing $32 billion — an increase of $2 billion — for the NIH.

Now is the time to prioritize biomedical research to increase critical life-saving medical treatments and high-quality cures available to all Americans. 

It’s time that every American family is affected not just by these diseases but also by the breakthrough research and treatments underway now and the amazing research to come.

Blunt is Missouri’s junior senator, serving since 2011. He sits on the Appropriations; the Commerce, Science and Transportation; and the Rules and Administration committees.