WASHINGTON, DC—Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), senior Democrat on the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, made the following opening statement at that subcommittee’s hearing today, “Future of Biomedical Research.” The subcommittee heard from Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institute of Health (NIH), and other NIH officials.
“Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I think with your comment with regard to the grant and the lobbying connection it’s important to note that the Inspector General at HHS said in response to the letter that you wrote and they wrote back ‘in our review of the records for these four grant awards, we found no evidence that the grants violated prohibitions on the use of Federal funds for lobbying, publicity, or propaganda.’ And sometimes in regards to research when I was chair of the Agriculture Committee when someone said we’re going to do research on the glassy-eyed sharpshooter I said “what could that be research on.” Well if you talk to people all over the nation the glassy-eyed sharpshooter destroys vines and grapes, which destroys an industry. So sometimes just to the eye of the observer, it’s not what it appears to be.
“This is thrilling, it really is. Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, as well as Drs. Varmus, Fauci, Landis and Gibbons, welcome to discuss the 2015 budget request for NIH. I’m a Yankees fan, and we used to have murder’s row. This is a savior’s role we have here this morning. Thank you all for sharing your insights and expertise. And thank you for all you do, each and every day, to save lives and push the frontiers of medical science. As a cancer survivor, 28 years cancer-free this month, I am here by the grace of God and because of biomedical science. So I am in awe of what you do.
“The work supported by the NIH saved my life, and it has saved the lives of countless others. So, as we discuss this issue today, I hope this subcommittee will look not just at the budgetary costs of NIH programs, but also at the huge costs to our health, our society, our economy, and even to knowledge itself if we fail to invest in health research and disease prevention.
“The simple fact is: The scientific and medical breakthroughs supported by NIH have allowed millions of Americans, myself included, to live happier and healthier lives. Because of this lifesaving research, we have seen dramatic reductions, as the Chairman pointed out, in heart disease and stroke fatalities. The five-year survival rate for childhood leukemia has risen to 90 percent. Fewer than fifty babies are born with HIV a year in America. We now have a cervical cancer vaccine.
“NIH has given us all of this, while growing our economy at the same time. Every dollar that goes to NIH results in two dollars and twenty-one cents of local economic growth. That is an over 100 percent return on the investment.
“Discoveries arising from NIH-funded research are the foundation for our entire biomedical industry. That vital sector exports an estimated $90 billion in goods and services annually and employs one million U.S. citizens, with wages totaling an estimated $84 billion. Just consider the economic benefit of one NIH-supported research initiative: Our $4 billion investment in the Human Genome Project spurred an estimated $796 billion in economic growth from 2000-2010. That is a 141-fold return on investment, after adjusting for inflation. I can’t say enough to you Dr. Collins, congratulations on this incredible triumph and I don’t even want to think of what we would be doing and where we would be without the Genome Project.
“Given the priceless value of better health and longer lives for so many Americans, as well as these amazing rates of return, ensuring that the NIH is adequately funded should be a fundamental priority for this subcommittee. It is why we came together, in a bipartisan way, to double the NIH budget fifteen years ago. And yet, recent budget policies have been shrinking NIH. Its total funding is now 700 million dollars less than it was before sequestration and 1.2 billion less than it was just four years ago. Only 58 percent of these deep sequester cuts were restored in the 2014 budget. When adjusted for increasing costs of medical research, NIH has lost more than 19 percent of its purchasing power since 2005.
“And here again, NIH is being forced to do less with less. And if our allocation is not increased, it will be much harder to do right by NIH, and all of our other priorities moving forward. These cuts have a direct, devastating impact on innovative medical research that saves lives and boosts our economy. NIH estimates that it will be able to support over 2,000 fewer research project grants in 2014 than it did in 2012 and over 5,000 fewer grants than in 2004.
“Ten years ago, NIH was able to fund almost one out of every three applications for research grants. Now, that ‘success rate’ is down to less than one in five. Understand what is being lost here. Cutting medical research means an incalculable loss. The discovery of fundamental knowledge about how we grow, age and become ill may dramatically slow down. So too may new treatments for the prevention and treatment of disease.
“Biomedical research gives us the gift of life. That is what NIH represents. I hope and I trust we will keep that in mind as we consider how to move forward today. Thank you, very very much to all of our witnesses for their testimony.”