Funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation’s leading medical research agency, has seen an upward trend recently, thanks to an advocacy organization that’s been steadily effecting positive change along with efforts of numerous national stakeholders and the scientific community.
In 2014, MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors (BOV) member Jed Manocherian established ACT (Advancing Cures Today) for NIH, fueling a grassroots effort to urge Congress and the administration to prioritize increased funding for biomedical research in the United States. He says restoring the NIH budget is the nonprofit’s singular mission.
“Our goal is complete NIH budget restoration in the coming years to ensure lifesaving research for patients around the world,” says Manocherian, a real estate developer based in New York. “We’ve had overwhelming bipartisan support.”
Manocherian enlisted the help of friends and fellow BOV members including Larry Bathgate, Paul Begala, Ed Bosarge, Rick Calhoon, Wayne Gibbens, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Tom Johnson, Marlene and Fred Malek, Linda McCaul, Mack McClarty, Pat Oxford and Andy Sabin. Mark Moreno and Ed Miller of MD Anderson’s Governmental Relations office have provided ongoing input and coordination with BOV members, as has former MD Anderson president Ron DePinho, M.D., professor of Cancer Biology and ACT for NIH advisory board member.
Initial efforts have made significant strides. In December 2015, the House and Senate passed an omnibus spending bill including $32 billion for the NIH. MD Anderson leaders applauded a reversal in the trend in decreased federal funding for medical and scientific research. The 2016 allotment was $2 billion over the past year’s funding level and included more than $5 billion for the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a 5% increase over the previous year.
In December 2016, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act to boost funding for medical research, accelerate development and approval of experimental treatments and reform federal policy on mental health care. The bill provided increased medical research funding including $1.8 billion for cancer research. Fiscal Year 2017 saw another $2 billion increase for the NIH budget. In March, Congress passed the FY2018 budget with a $3 billion increase for the NIH.
“This progress sends the message to our patients, researchers, student scientists and advocates that, once again, medical research is a national priority,” says DePinho.
The NIH, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, comprises 27 institutes and centers, including the NCI.
MD Anderson ranks first in the number of research grants awarded by the NCI, which currently funds nine SPORE (Specialized Programs of Research Excellence) grants at the institution.
“The recent uptick in NIH funding reflects the dedication and vision of Jed and all who have joined forces to champion this cause and gain the support of Congress and the administration,” says Peter Pisters, M.D., president of MD Anderson. “I can think of no better example of Making Cancer History.”