Casey, Burr seek support for NIH spending

Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) are asking their colleagues to spare the National Institutes of Health from major budget cuts.

The two senators were circulating a “dear colleague” letter Thursday that asks Senate appropriators to “maintain a strong commitment” to NIH as work begins on next year’s spending bills.

NIH escaped the last big round of cuts — a stopgap measure to keep the government open through the end of the year. But with Congress focused on cutting spending, supporters fear the agency could come under the knife soon.

“We all recognize the difficult choices that need to be made as we seek to reduce the deficit,” the letter states. “If we are to improve the health of Americans and the quality of their lives, we must continue to invest in areas like biomedical research that have the potential to save money in the future, improve the lives of Americans, and offer an economic return.”

A broad coalition of stakeholder groups, including academic research centers and the pharmaceutical industry, has also been pushing for NIH funding. The coalition, United for Medical Research, released reports last month that said NIH research supports more than 480,000 jobs.