Created by on 7/17/2012 12:00:00 AM

On June 21st, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, testified at a House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing to review the agency’s progress in relation to implementation of the NIH Reform Act of 2006. The hearing also featured a discussion about the NIH budget, the peer review process, how NIH determines research priorities, the organizational structure of NIH, and the establishment of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). In addition, Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Edward Markey (D-MA) asked about the impact of sequestration on NIH and how the agency will handle the estimated eight percent cut to its budget in fiscal year 2013. Dr. Collins responded that no area of the NIH budget would be spared, stating he would be forced to “spread the pain” across all disciplines. Dr. Collins explained that if the sequester were to take effect, NIH would award 2,300 fewer grants, driving success rates to an historic low.
Health Subcommittee Chair Joe Pitts (R-PA) inquired about NIH’s peer review process, indicating that he would like to meet with NIH to gain a better understanding about the various levels of review involved. Representative Sue Myrick (R-NC) questioned Dr. Collins on the steps the agency takes to ensure that members of review panels are free from conflicts of interest. Other members of the committee asked for more information about NCATS and how NIH partners with industry to translate the basic research it supports into commercial applications available to consumers. Dr. Collins testified that NCATS will be able to “conduct and support research to develop enhanced methodologies and approaches in translational science that can be used by other NIH Institutes and centers, academia, industry, and other sciences.” Both Republicans and Democrats offered praise for Dr. Collins and the value of NIH research in improving human health throughout the nearly two-hour hearing. A press release and webcast of the session are available on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s website.