Update on NIH Funding for COVID Research
By Ross A. Frommer, Vice President for Government and Community Affairs and Associate Dean at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.
Since passage of the first COVID-19 relief bill in early March, Congress has provided roughly $3.6 billion in supplemental appropriations for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for COVID-19 research and testing. This includes $846 million in H.R.6074 - Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, primarily for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, $945 million in H.R.748 - CARES Act for a variety of Institutes and Centers, and $1.8 billion in the H.R.266 - Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, primarily to support testing activities.
Going forward, the research community is advocating for an additional $26 billion appropriations for all federally funded research combined (NIH, National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, etc.). This is meant to represent roughly 30% of the overall federal research budget. Of this amount, roughly $10 billion would be expected to go to the NIH.
Unlike the previous appropriations, this funding could be used to support research that was ongoing prior to lab closures as a result of COVID-19. Academic research institutions and others are calling for funding to support sustaining the research workforce until research operations can return to normal, covering ramp down and ramp up costs, covering the costs of inactive core facilities and staff, complying with federal regulations and audits, and replenishing PPE and other supplies that had to be diverted to clinical care during the worst days of crisis. In addition to funded cost extensions, we will also be seeking to allow the NIH greater authority to grant no-cost extensions and other regulatory relief.
Congress is currently in recess but is expected to return sometime in mid-May. When they do, an additional relief bill will be on top of the agenda. Going forward throughout the remainder of the year, the Ad-Hoc Group for Medical Research, of which Columbia is a member, will be pushing for more funding for additional COVID-19 research and other infrastructure investments, in addition to support for the research relief described above.