National Institutes of Health Issues Projected Impact of Sequestration on Programs 


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The loss of revenue in research, said the report, is delaying progress in medical breakthroughs, including the development of more effective targeted cancer therapies.

—NIH Fact Sheet

Earlier this month, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released its updated projections of reductions in programs due to the deficit-budget mechanism known as sequestration, which took effect on March 1, 2013. The sequestration law requires NIH to cut 5%, or $1.55 billion, of its fiscal year 2013 budget, and the cuts must apply evenly across all programs, projects, and activities. The result will mean that every area of medical research will be impacted.

According to the fact sheet issued by the NIH, more than 80% of the agency’s budget goes to more than 300,000 research personnel at over 2,500 universities and research institutions nationwide. NIH also employs about 6,000 scientists in its own research laboratories, most of which are located on the NIH main campus in Bethesda, Maryland. The main campus also houses the NIH Clinical Center, the largest hospital in the world dedicated to clinical research, according to the agency.

Research Delays

According to the report, the budget cuts will result in:

  • Approximately 700 fewer competitive grants issued
  • Approximately 750 fewer new patients admitted to the NIH Clinical Center—a decrease from 10,695 new patients in 2012 to about 9,945 new patients in 2013—although services to patients are not expected to be reduced
  • No increase in stipends for National Research Service Award recipients in fiscal year 2013

The loss of revenue in research, said the report, is delaying progress in medical breakthroughs, including the development of more effective targeted cancer therapies; a universal flu vaccine that could be effective against every strain of influenza without the need for an annual shot; and a delay in the development of better treatments for common and rare diseases.

Economic Ramifications

Although the budget reduction will affect all areas of research, NIH has no plans currently to furlough or lay off employees and will instead delay new hires and reduce administrative contracts. However, since NIH grant-funding spurs job creation and economic growth throughout the states, sequestration is expected to result in a loss of 20,500 jobs in the life sciences sector and $3 billion in economic output nationwide. According to NIH’s fact sheet, for every six applications submitted to the agency, only one will now be funded. ■



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