Bump In Federal Research Funding Benefits Iowa Scientists

Jul 10, 2015

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Cures Act Friday morning, which increases funding to the National Institutes of Health by $8.75 billion over the course of five years.

This announcement is particularly exciting for biomedical researchers in Iowa and across the country. When taking inflation into account, NIH funding has dropped by more than 22 percent since 2003.

Dr. George Weiner heads the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa and is president of the Association of American Cancer Institutes, whose membership includes 93 academic and freestanding cancer research centers nationwide.  He says that lack of funding has hurt U.S. medical research. 

"You see many other countries--China, India, Singapore--really investing in biomedical research," says Weiner, speaking with host Ben Kieffer on Iowa Public Radio's River to River. "Some of the talented people in this country, some of them have actually gone overseas. And I think that's one of the factors that the politicians are looking at."

All four of Iowa's congressmen voted in favor of the legislation, which had large bipartisan support. The bill now moves to the Senate. 

An earlier version of the bill put the funding at $10 billion, though that was cut by 15 percent.

During floor debate Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack said he hoped the $1.25 billion would be restored as the bill moves forward. Loesback represents Iowa's second district which holds the University of Iowa. 

Despite the paring back, the Loesbsack said he's pleased with the legislation. 

"This legislation is proof that we can accomplish great things when we put aside partisanship and unite around a common goal," Loebsack told fellow representatives. “I am really happy that we have finally gotten to a point in this body where we can think long term.  Not just about the costs for this program for this year or even for the next five years, but we can also think about all the savings that this will entail down the road."