ASM Recommends Increased Funding for Research and Public Health Programs in FY 2006

CONTACT:
Janet Shoemaker
jshoemaker@asmusa.org

WASHINGTON, DC -- February 7, 2005 -- The American Society for Microbiology (ASM), the largest single life sciences society with 43,000 members, recommends strong growth in the fiscal year (FY) 2006 budget for key federal agencies supporting biomedical and basic research in the sciences as well as critical public health programs. Funding for these efforts is a valuable investment for the future and an essential strategy for sustaining the global leadership of the United States, improving the health of its citizens, growing its economy, and contributing broadly to world health and security.

ASM is recommending a 6 percent budget increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in FY 2006, and believes that this increase would improve the pace of scientific investigation and the translation of science into new and better approaches to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases. Such increases are important if we are to take full advantage of innovative tools and technologies and the many extraordinary achievements that researchers have made during the recent past. We can realize more of the important individual medical treatment and public health goals that loom on the near horizon. This progress will lead to therapies and treatments that will extend the lives of people and improve their quality of life.

ASM considers a 6 percent increase justified for NIH if it is to continue current programs and deal with new and pressing needs, including the threat of pandemic influenza, other emerging infectious diseases like the recent and unexpected SARS outbreak, the AIDS pandemic and the expansion of the biodefense initiatives. Because the President’s budget request for NIH falls below the current biomedical rate of inflation, which is about 3.5 percent, biomedical research could face a slowdown in the pace of progress at a time when substantial opportunities are ready to be seized.

“We count on the NIH to support development of the basic knowledge that leads to products and treatments that are critical for human health,” said Dr. Ruth Berkelman, chair of the ASM Public and Scientific Affairs Board. “Added to this responsibility, NIH is being asked to help develop countermeasures that can control a range of biothreat agents. Developing such measures while studying highly infectious microbes will require a long-term commitment and increased funding.”

Pandemic influenza preparedness for vaccine and antiviral research and development, distribution, international animal-based control programs, and national, international and regional planning will require adequate funding at a level beyond that currently proposed.

With people at risk from a broad range of health threats, our public health system will not be able to respond adequately without appropriate resources for its public health and training programs. Hence, ASM is recommending an increase of 8 percent in the FY 2006 budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “CDC’s importance to safeguarding public health both nationally and globally is now unprecedented, but the level of funding for CDC is not keeping pace with its growing responsibilities to address new health threats. Infectious disease public health needs have been and will continue to increase. CDC’s programs must remain strong to better reflect threats from infectious diseases,” Dr. Berkelman said.

Federal research agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), help to produce the basic knowledge and many of the critically useful technical tools and instruments that are and will be needed for meeting so many of these public health goals, or that are essential for meeting the nation’s food, environmental and energy needs and for providing agricultural products for the export market.

To accelerate progress in the basic sciences across disciplines, ASM encourages Congress to meet the goals for funding laid out in the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2002. To respond to research opportunities in the areas of genomics and climate change and foster more research in the energy related sciences, ASM recommends that the FY 2006 budget for the Department of Energy science programs be adequately funded. ASM also urges an increase for the FY 2006 budget for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) research programs which will have a direct effect on increasing US competitiveness in agriculture and food safety. Adequate funding is very necessary for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which assures the safety and efficacy of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, and the food supply. Sound public policy for environmental protection depends on adequate funding for the scientific programs of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The ASM encourages Congress to provide higher funding levels for science and public health programs that address many of the important health, economic, and security needs of the United States, its citizens and the world community.

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