Congress Considers Additional Measures to Boost Economy: NIH Makes Case to Include Research Funds in Stimulus Legislation

Acting NIH Director Raynard Kington, MD, PhD, made a strong case last week for the inclusion of additional NIH research funds in any economic stimulus legislation.

Acting NIH Director Raynard Kington, MD, PhD, made a strong case last week for the inclusion of additional NIH research funds in any economic stimulus legislation. Speaking before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, Kington said that NIH is more than the nation's premier scientific research agency: it is an engine of economic growth. In Fiscal Year 2007, Kington said, NIH funded some 47,000 grants, worth $20 billion. Economic studies have shown that NIH grants have a multiplier effect, attracting additional investment from universities, foundations or the private sector of about 2.5 times the grant's value. And on average, each NIH grant supports seven jobs. In response to questions from Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Kington noted that NIH approved 10,000 grants more than it was able to fund with its current flat budget. With an additional appropriation in a stimulus package, NIH could fund those in a matter of weeks. Each $500 million in additional funding could yield 1,400 new grants.

In the same hearing, Ronald Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA, testified that substantial indirect benefits result from NIH funding, including helping universities and businesses grow, improving local health care and quality of life, helping local economies, and improving health globally. Pollack cited examples from the Families USA report, "In Your Own Backyard: How NIH Funding Helps Your State's Economy."

The Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research Funding, in which APA participates, recently sent a letter to the House and Senate leadership in support of including additional NIH research funds in economic stimulus legislation.

Whether Congress will be able to attract a majority of votes to build a stimulus package before the Obama Administration takes office is a bet that few are willing to make. Democratic leaders have been calling for a package that would include loan guarantees and other assistance for the domestic automobile industry, which many Republicans oppose. The election of new Democrats in the House and Senate who will take office in 2009 will likely add votes for stimulus legislation, but House and Senate leaders would prefer to act before January.

Senate Democrats introduced a $100.3 billion economic stimulus package on November 18, 2008, which among other items, includes $1 billion for NIH. They will likely try to move this package immediately.