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02 February 2010

Obama's budget boosts research

Health research is one potential winner in the budget proposed by President Barack Obama, with the National Institutes of Health down for an extra $1 billion for medical research.

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Health research is one potential winner in the budget proposed by President Barack Obama, with the National Institutes of Health down for an extra $1 billion for medical research.

It also allocates $25.5 billion for six months to help prop up Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance plan for the poor, and provides $1.4 billion for food safety efforts and $3 billion for Aids prevention.

Much of the new money goes to basic medical research funded by NIH, which typically pays for projects at academic centres. Some is eventually licensed to drug and biotechnology companies to make into commercial products.

Biomedical research

"To accelerate progress in biomedical research, NIH investments will focus on priority areas including genomics, translational research, science to support health care reform, global health, and reinvigorating the biomedical research community," the budget reads.

Translational research is shorthand for taking basic medical research done in lab dishes or animals into applications that can help people, while genomics is the study of the DNA map.

NIH director Dr Francis Collins told Reuters in an interview last month that he wanted to push his agency to look for quicker "real-world" applications for research, such as turning discovery of a new disease gene into a diagnostic test for the disease.

He also said NIH could do more to help improve the US healthcare system, for instance by conducting comparative effectiveness research to find out which treatments are the best.

Obama's proposed budget also includes $286 million for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to do comparative effectiveness research.

$6 billion for cancer research

As it did last year, the budget earmarks $6 billion for cancer research, including the start of 30 new trials in patients in 2011.

And as Obama promised last year, it designates $222 million for autism research. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention now estimates that one in 110 US children are diagnosed with autism or related disorders, and no one known how much of this is due to better or more complete diagnosis, and how much of it may be new.

The total NIH budget rises to $32 billion in 2011 under Obama's proposal, up from $30 billion in 2009 and an estimated $31 billion in 2010. - (Maggie Fox/Reuters Health, February 2010)

 
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