February 4, 2002 - ASM Commends the President's Budget Request for the National Institutes of Health

The American Society for Microbiology commends President Bush's proposal for a record $2.8 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in FY 2002, as promised in his presidential campaign. This proposed increase is a major step toward meeting the bipartisan goal set by Congress of doubling the NIH budget by FY 2003, enabling the Institutes to take greater advantage of the many recent significant discoveries affecting human health.

Each year the cost of illness in the United States totals an estimated $3 trillion in health care and lost productivity, representing 31% of the gross domestic product. The entire NIH budget equals less than 1% of this annual health-related burden on the national economy.

Within the past few years we have seen exponential advances in knowledge in the biomedical sciences. The landmark advances of decoding the human genome and sequencing 30 bacterial genomes, discovering new treatments for AIDS, and developing a vaccine that can prevent meningitis in children are only a few of the many accomplishments that have set the stage for an even more explosive growth in the benefits derived from NIH research.

The opportunities for substantial return on investment in biomedical research have never been greater, and it is essential that the NIH be supported at a level to take full advantage of promising existing and new areas of basic and clinical research.

According to a report of the Joint Economic Committee, public investment in NIH yields returns to the economy of 25% to 40% per year. The development of the Hemophilus influenzae vaccine to prevent meningitis in children, for example, has saved an estimated $400 million yearly in treatment and long-term care costs.

At the same time, we are being challenged by emerging and existing infectious diseases, increasing resistance to antibiotics, and accumulating evidence pointing to an infectious cause for many chronic diseases, such as arthritis, heart disease, and some forms of cancer.

The path of scientific progress will shift in the coming decades, with new funding needed for a broader scientific base that will require much more multidisciplinary research. Advances in technology are just one aspect of the increasingly complex and expensive research enterprise needed to combat the numerous infections and chronic diseases and disabilities that continue to cause suffering and death.

The ASM therefore joins with the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research in endorsing an FY 2002 budget increase of $3.4 billion (16.5%) to ensure we reach the goal of doubling the NIH budget by FY 2003.

Such an increase will also enable the NIH to increase the total number of research project grants it supports, thereby pursuing a greater number of scientific opportunities, and to expand training programs, ensuring an adequate scientific workforce that can translate research discoveries into significant patient care advances.