UPDATE: The House of Representatives on Friday passed the omnibus spending bill on a 316-113 vote. It will now head to the Senate and is expected to be ready for President Obama's signature later in the day.
- House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced late Tuesday night that congressional leaders had finally reached a deal on a massive, $1.1 trillion omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government in FY2016 and extend a flurry of tax cuts and credits.
- Under the current deal (you can read the text here), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) would get a significant $2 billion boost to its annual budget in 2016, including $350 million for Alzheimer's research funding. Top government scientists have been itching for an increase in the NIH budget, warning that failing to do so would diminish the United States' capacity to conduct research and trials.
- In a boon to pharma firms, the bill will also extend the FDA's pediatric review voucher program through September 30, 2016.
- The omnibus deal would also lift the FDA's budget by $133 million next year and provide $5 million for drug safety efforts and another $2.4 million for President Obama's Precision Medicine Initiative—a massive undertaking that involves sequencing one million Americans' genomes.
- Strikingly, the bill also includes a measure barring the FDA from using any appropriated funds in order to review research "in which a human embryo is intentionally created or modified to include a heritable genetic modification." A panel of experts that met earlier this month to discuss gene editing at a White House summit also recommended against such embryo modification.
The question now is whether or not the proposed appropriations bill will ultimately pass the House and the Senate. The House is expected to take up the measure by the end of the week.
"We are very pleased with the critical funding Congress has included for NIH," said president and CEO of Thermo Fisher Scientific on behalf of United for Medical Research in a statement lauding the deal.
"Boosting the NIH budget to just over $32 billion is a significant increase over 2015 – more than five percent – and demonstrates the strong bipartisan support for biomedical research as an engine for innovation and a pathway to hope for patients."
At last year's JPMorgan Healthcare Conference, NIH director Dr. Francis Collins warned that the NIH had lost 25% of its purchasing power compared to 2003 due to funding cuts and inflation, which led to research funding for just 1 in 6 projects currently.