Politics, Research Institutes

Trump’s budget takes a big bite out of the NIH, with big new fees for biopharma

President Donald Trump’s new budget is hitting the table today and biomedical research is out, FDA fees are up and military spending is in.

The Washington Post got the debate started early Thursday, revealing that the new budget includes an enormous $5.8 billion cut in the NIH’s budget, close to 20%.

To get that, Trump’s team envisions a major reorganization of the NIH, which funds thousands of research projects and provides much of the foundation work for preclinical drug research. The NIH has also been moving more into translational efforts aimed at vaulting these programs ahead, with an eye to seeing more drugs pointed to the market.

The details are lacking, but the Post highlights one program that is clearly on the chopping block. The Fogarty International Center, which builds ties among research institutes, is slated to be axed in the budget. But that’s just a drop in the bucket if anything close to these kinds of cuts are made. A drastic change at the NIH would likely eliminate a large number of academic research efforts around the country.

Reuters, meanwhile, reports that the budget includes an added bill for biopharma. The FDA is supposed to get $2 billion of its budget from the industry fees it charges. That’s double what the industry currently pays.

The payback is a frequently promised improvement in speeding drug development, something most people in the industry still view with deep skepticism. First, the agency is generally seen as responsive now, though capable of improvement, with little appetite for radical change. Second, the promised reform may not come close to having the kind of positive effect that Trump keeps insisting he can deliver almost overnight.

The fees, though, would be very real.

It’s still early, but scientific interests in the country, which recently won a hard-fought increase of the NIH budget, will come out swinging on this one. And they have some allies in both major parties. Don’t look for industry lobbying groups to cheer any increase in fees, either. But with major tax reform on the line, criticism may be muted in public forums.

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