February 5, 1997 - Statement on Biomedical Research

The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) commends recent Senate actions and adds its support to Congressional efforts to increase funding for biomedical research.

In recent Senate action, Senators Arlen Specter, Connie Mack, Phil Gramm, Bill Frist and others took the lead in the 105th Congress in making basic research and biomedical research one of Congress' top investment priorities for the nation by introducing a resolution (S. Res. 15) and a bill (S. 124) that will set an agenda for the nation. Senate Resolution 15 acknowledges the life and cost-saving benefits of medical research and recommends a doubling of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget over the next five years. Senator Specter, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor-Health and Human Services-Education, has announced his commitment to increase the appropriation for the NIH by 7.5 percent for fiscal year 1998. Representative John Porter, Chair of the House labor, HHS Appropriations Subcommittee and a leading advocate of medical research, has also stated his strong commitment to increased funding for the NIH.

"Due to recent advances made possible by basic research, the opportunities have never been greater for development of new diagnostics and new therapies for human disease," says Gail Cassell, Ph.D., Chair of the ASM's Public and Scientific Affairs Board. "This is particularly true in the field of infectious diseases which are now the third leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of death worldwide."

"The problem is compounded because of rapidly developing resistance of infectious agents to anti-infective drugs. Recent research achievements, if built upon and expanded upon, will not only allow for advances in prevention of these traditional infectious diseases but will allow more in-depth research on preliminary findings that suggest an infectious cause of some of the most common forms of chronic diseases in humans, including coronary artery disease, arthritis and cancers of the cervix and stomach," says Dr. Cassell.

"Through the NIH, the people of the United States have made a long-term investment in improving the nation's health. This investment has paid off in better health for all Americans, saving countless lives and improving the human condition. The NIH has become the leading biomedical research institution in the nation and the world. The long-term support of basic research by the NIH is also credited with creating the biotechnology industry, which is a major contributor to the nation's economy," says the ASM.

The ASM, which represents over 43,000 members in the microbiological sciences, commends the leadership of Congress for actions that represent a significant goal for strengthening the nation's biomedical research effort. For fiscal year 1998, the ASM supports the NIH professional judgement budget which proposes a 9 percent increase over fiscal year 1997 and believes this budget is consistent with the goals and intent of Congress for increasing the fiscal year 1998 budget of the NIH. The ASM is a member of the Executive Committee of the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research Funding.

"The recommended increased funding level for NIH is the minimum increase necessary, if we are to keep pace with inflation and fund a significant number of new research opportunities," says Kenneth I. Berns, M.D., Ph.D., President of the ASM. "This expenditure has a compelling rationale and is critical if we are to capitalize on our previous investments."

"In view of the scientifically justified professional judgement budget identified by scientific experts as the best estimate of needed funding for NIH, the ASM is particularly disappointed at the Administration's proposed increase of only 2.6 percent for the NIH. This proposed increase falls far short of the level of funding needed for NIH programs and would severely limit the pursuit of many research opportunities," added Dr. Berns.