Congress’s Recently-Passed Budget Bill: Impact on the BRAIN Initiative

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Congress recently passed a budget bill that promises increased funding above fiscal year 2017 to NIH, including significant increases for the BRAIN Initiative. The legislation delivers further to support NIH’s mission of conducting biomedical research that will save lives, lead to new drug and device development, reduce health care costs, and improve the lives of all Americans.

On March 23, 2018, President Trump signed the Omnibus Appropriations Bill that provides $37.1 billion for NIH, an increase of $3 billion (or 8.8%) above fiscal year 2017. Thus, for the second consecutive year, NIH has seen funding increases from Congress, indicating strong support for the NIH mission.

The spending bill includes $496 million of appropriated funds authorized in the 21st Century Cures Act. The Cures Act, signed into law in December 2016, allocates funding to NIH each year through 2026, for a total of $4.8 billion. The BRAIN Initiative was one of four highly innovative scientific initiatives designated to receive multi-year funding through the Innovation Fund of the Cures Act, reflecting enthusiasm for the Initiative and its goals. This funding must be appropriated each year by Congress.

In fiscal year 2017, Congress appropriated $250 million to support the BRAIN Initiative, with an additional $10 million coming from the Cures Act Innovation Fund. In fiscal year 2018, Congress has provided an additional $140 million, of which $86 million is from the Cures Act Innovation Fund. This legislation reflects strong bipartisan Congressional support for biomedical research, and will provide NIH with the resources needed to continue to work towards the goals outlined in BRAIN’s strategic plan, the BRAIN 2025 report. The funding will help accelerate BRAIN’s mission to develop and apply innovative tools and neurotechnologies, as well as to support researchers as they seek new ways to treat, cure, and even prevent brain disorders.

In addition to the increased funds for the BRAIN Initiative, the Omnibus Bill increases funding by $414 million, to a total of $1.8 billion in fiscal year 2018, for Alzheimer’s disease research. The bill also includes $250 million for targeted research related to opioid addiction, development of opioid alternatives, and pain management (see also the recent NINDS call for applications directed at the treatment of pain). The agreement expects that NIH will continue its focus on emerging investigators, with actions to significantly reduce the average age of NIH-supported new investigators and support an increase in the number of Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards.

The spending bill will fund the government until the end of the current fiscal year.

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