Chair DeLauro Statement at FY 2023 Budget Request for the National Institutes of Health Hearing

2022-05-11 10:41

House Appropriations Committee Chair and Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03) delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on the FY 2023 Budget Request for the National Institutes of Health: 

I want to acknowledge and thank Ranking Member Tom Cole and all of the Members of the subcommittee joining today’s hearing both virtually and in person. 

And a thank you to our witnesses for testifying before us today. Dr. Tabak, welcome to this subcommittee. While you started in this role a few short months ago, you have proven, in your over 12 years as the Principal Deputy Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and ten years as the Director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, to be a very thoughtful and efficient leader. Thank you for your commitment to making America healthier place and our health care research more equitable. 

Let me aslo welcome the Institute directors joining Dr. Tabak and our subcommittee this morning:

Dr. Diana Bianchi, Director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development;
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases;
Dr. Gary Gibbons, Director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute;
Dr. Douglas Lowy, Director of the National Cancer Institute; and
Dr. Nora Volkow (VOL-kov), Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

I also want to note, and I think I've said this before and we were able to do this once before, that I do intend to invite an additional panel of Institute and Center directors to testify before this subcommittee later this year. We have not been able to hold a second panel in the past two years, but I value the research of every Institute and every Center and want to make sure the subcommittee has the opportunity to hear from others directly.

I'm also going to be reviewing the funding across all the Institutes and Centers, looking for patterns over time. And to hear more about how the Institutes and Centers set priorities. 

And I just say this with all sincerity, I always think that this is one of the most exciting, and exhilerating, and meaningful hearings that we have before the Appropriations Committee. 

The work that you do, the staff, all of the staff, and the grantees supported by NIH have done to continue prioritizing COVID-19 research over the past two years, we would be nowhere close to where we are in defeating this virus. Through the research of the NIH's own scientists, and everyone talks about how quickly we moved and how successfully we were in terms of a vaccine, it just didn't happen overnight. It was the years of research and investment in the research that allowed us to move as quickly as we were able to. So through the research of our scientists, researchers at grantee institutions, and partnerships with the private sector, our knowledge of the virus has dramatically improved, reliable detection and diagnostic technologies have been developed, treatment options have been implemented, and vaccines and other prevention methods were accelerated and distributed – all in record time. 

NIH’s response to COVID proved what I have known for a long time – that our significant and longstanding support for biomedical research is absolutely critical to ensuring we are prepared to prevent and address health care crises whenever they may arise. The work you do saves lives and protects families the world over. And with the proper resources and leadership at NIH, our biomedical research can move very quickly and in very focused ways to achieve high-priority goals and continue to save lives. 

But none of these transformational advances would have been possible without the annual, sustained investments in basic biomedical research made by this Committee, in a bipartisan way, in recent years. 

That is why I am so proud that, over the past seven years, Congress has increased NIH funding by nearly $15 billion, or 49 percent. And I repeat that this has been done with a bipartisan effort. And in the 2022 omnibus recently passed, Congress provided a $2.25 billion increase over 2021.

This includes an increase of $353 million to fund a greater number of research proposals at the National Cancer Institute and support for the Cancer Moonshot initiative that will save lives by speeding cancer research progress and improving prevention, detection, and treatment efforts.

We also provided an increase of $289 million for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias research to help us better understand the causes of Alzheimer’s and advance research for diagnosis, care, treatments, and prevention for those with and at-risk of developing this disease.

I am especially proud of the $30 million increase for the IMPROVE maternal health research initiative. The maternal mortality rate in this nation is far too high – the highest of any developed nation – and more must be done to address this crisis that kills hundreds of mothers every year. These increased funds to support research on maternal morbidity and mortality will reduce preventable causes of maternal deaths and improve the health of pregnant people, especially of those mothers, the victims to our nation’s health disparities, who have been historically underserved. 

And health disparities impacting underrepresented communities are an unacceptable issue in nearly every corner of our physical and mental health care system, which is why we delivered an increase of $50 million for research to identify and reduce health disparities across our country.

I am also proud of the $8 million increase that Congress provided for the Office of Research on Women’s Health to further promote the interests and involvement of women in NIH-supported research.

And I am personally grateful for the $159.4 million in fiscal year 2022 NIH grants that have already been delivered to my own district – Connecticut’s Third – following $572.8 million in fiscal year 2021 NIH funding for the district. This funding has already advanced critical research efforts, strengthened the future economy, and grown opportunities in my community, but my hope is that this is replicated in cities, and in small towns, and in rural areas across the country. We have to move it beyond our cities and across our country.

As we continue to build on these transformative investments, I am pleased that the President Biden’s budget request for 2023 proposes an increase of nearly $4.3 billion for NIH.

I am so pleased that, included in this budget request, is a proposal to increase research to address health disparities and the opioid crisis, two major issues impacting the health of far too many across this nation. 

I am also particularly glad to see the proposed $15 million increase for universal flu vaccine research and development – an issue that I have been fighting to address for years.

And the request would double funding for gun violence prevention research at the NIH, building off of the investments this subcommittee has made over the past three years.

Despite all the great investments in this bill, however, I am concerned about the lack of balance between the budget request for ARPA-H and the request for other, more “traditional,” NIH activities. 

I know the President’s fiscal year 2023 budget request for NIH was developed before the 2022 omnibus was enacted and might have been different if it had been enacted sooner. However, the proposed increase of $274 million for core NIH activities is insufficient and threatens the progress this Committee has made in the past several years through significant, sustained investments in biomedical research. 

I have said it before and I will repeat it: I am proud of the work we have done together to establish ARPA-H. It is clear that the $1 billion investment in 2022 funding this committee made to establish ARPA-H has the incredible potential to develop transformative technologies that save lives. This historic funding and it will be used to research the causes and address the debilitating impact of major diseases like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer, ALS, and others that impact the lives of millions of Americans and exacerbate already existing health disparities. 

However, it is critical that we strike a balance between the investments we make in ARPA-H and those in basic research and discovery at the NIH.

Dr. Tabak, I know this was not your decision, but while I strongly support NIH and recognize its long record of success in supporting biomedical research, I believe that placing ARPA-H within NIH is a mistake and will hamper the agency’s ability to achieve the breakthroughs I just outlined. I strongly believe that ARPA-H would be more successful in its unique mission if it were established as an independent agency within Healh and Human Services.

With that, let me just say I thank you all again for joining us today. Your work, again, is invaluable to the health infrastructure of our nation, to really improving our medical discoveries, for making these medical discoveries, and ultimately saving lives. I look forward to our discussion this morning and our work together in the months to come.

117th Congress