ASM Recommends Increased Funding for Research and Public Health Programs in FY2005

Janet Shoemaker
(202) 942-9294

WASHINGTON, DC -- February 2, 2004 -- The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) is concerned about the 2.5 percent increase in funding proposed for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2005 President’s budget submitted to Congress today. Inadequate funding for the NIH will impact research programs and slow important areas of research, diminishing the pursuit of scientific opportunities, discovery, and innovation to develop new medicines and diagnostics to improve public health.

The ASM is recommending that Congress make research and public health programs a high national priority and consider an alternative increase of 10 percent for the NIH for FY 2005, even in recognition of the tight budgetary constraints currently facing the nation. Better and sustained funding increases will enable NIH to accelerate and expand promising basic and clinical research that will lead to new preventions and treatments for tragic and costly illnesses and disabilities that continue to afflict and claim the lives of many people.

Advances in NIH research have markedly intensified over the past 5 years during which the NIH budget has grown thanks to the foresight of Congress and the Administration. Robust funding increases have resulted in rapid strides in cutting edge research and new research tools to facilitate the development of vaccines, therapies and interventions that save and improve the lives of millions of people.

The public health and security of the nation depend on the continuation of strong investments in research and public health. “The severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic of 2003 highlights the continuing need for investment in a strong biomedical and public health system that is prepared to respond to emerging diseases, whether naturally occurring or intentionally introduced,” said Dr. Gail Cassell, chair of the ASM Public and Scientific Affairs Board. “Previous NIH investment in emerging diseases research has allowed expeditious studies of SARS to identify targets for antiviral drugs, diagnostics and vaccines,” Cassell said. Not only are people at risk for chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, but also from new and emerging infectious diseases, such as the HIV pandemic, highly virulent influenza viruses, West Nile Virus, hepatitis A and C, and the possibility of the deliberate release of disease by bioterrorists, which still remains a threat.

“Accomplishments and investment in biodefense research, facilities and resources will also facilitate defenses against naturally occurring infectious diseases that pose a real and present danger to global public health,” Dr. Cassell said.

The nation’s investment in biomedical research, as well as public health programs funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), must be sufficient and sustained to respond to pressing health challenges. The ASM encourages Congress to provide higher funding levels for biomedical and public health programs that will address the alarming burden of disease in the United States and abroad and help prepare the nation for novel health threats and the next disease emergency that will inevitably occur in the future.

The American Society for Microbiology, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is the largest single life science association, with 42,000 members worldwide. Its members work in educational, research, industrial, and government settings on issues such as the environment, the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, laboratory and diagnostic medicine, and food and water safety. The ASM’s mission is to gain a better understanding of basic life processes and to promote the application of this knowledge for improved health and economic and environmental well being.