HomeWashington Letter2016 ▶ Senate Panel Hears From NIH Director Francis Collins, MD
Senate Panel Hears From NIH Director Francis Collins, MD

April 2016

On April 7, the Senate Labor-Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, chaired by Sen. Blunt (R-MO), held a budget hearing with NIH Director Francis Collins, MD and other institute directors from NCI, NIDA, NCATS, NIDDK and NIA. Much of the discussion focused on ways to increase NIH funding and what NIH could do with more funds. Dr. Collins pressed for sustained long-term growth in the NIH budget. He and the Committee are also focusing on support for young investigators. Dr. Collins stated that the prospects for young investigators have improved over the past few years and emphasized several NIH initiatives for young researchers including the grant process in which young researchers compete against each other rather than higher-level researchers and the NIH's loan repayment program. Dr. Collins expressed support for raising current loan repayment caps from $35,000 to $50,000. .

The hearing was also an opportunity to provide a forecast on science. In his opening statement, Dr. Collins outlined the following 10 areas for scientific advancement over the next decade:

  1. Basic Science:
    Dr. Collins discussed advances in detailed analysis of cells  that, for example, will allow us to decode the process by which cells attack immune systems in diseases such as lupus.
  2. New tools/technology developed through the BRAIN Initiative will allow us to diagnose neurological disorders such as autism and Parkinsons earlier.
  3. BRAIN imaging techniques will enable us to identify individuals at risk for Alzheimers earlier and develop prevention interventions.
  4. Advanced safety and effectiveness testing for new drugs and better detection and analysis of environmental exposures.
  5. Heart Failure:
    Dr. Collins stated that advances will enable us to rebuild patients' hearts.
  6. Development of an artificial pancreas and the significant impact this will have on people with diabetes.
  7. Development of new vaccines. Dr. Collins stated that he expects to have a Zika vaccine by 2018, and a universal flu and AIDS vaccine within the decade.
  8. Genomics will reveal targets for the treatment of pain.
  9. Personalized medicine to improve treatment outcomes.
  10. Cancer:
    Dr. Collins stated that the Cancer Moonshot will develop powerful new prevention and targeted therapies.

Dr. Collins and the institute directors received a number of questions about opioid addiction, operation of the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI), including efforts to ensure a diverse cohort, and use of patient data in the PMI.  A webcast of the hearing is available.

Last Reviewed: October 2017