Home » In the News » Biden calls for boosts in science spending to keep US competitive

Biden calls for boosts in science spending to keep US competitive

This is an excerpt.  Read the full article on Nature. 

Although Biden’s budget proposal goes big on ensuring US competitiveness, it also aims to capitalize on lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic to protect the country against future disease outbreaks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been scrutinized for its response to the pandemic, and its leaders have vowed to revamp its structure and processes. Biden requested $11.6 billion for the agency, an increase of $2.4 billion, or 26%, from 2023 — reflecting concerns over the US public-health system. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association in Washington DC, says that the increase is a good first step. “The public-health system has been so underfunded for so long that the truth of the matter is it’s going to take a fair amount of money to make that right, but it’s a step in the right direction,” he says.

The budget plan also calls for $20 billion over five years for pandemic preparedness. More than half of this funding would go to the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response, an agency that is responsible for dealing with public-health emergencies and maintaining the national stockpile of vaccines and treatments.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, might receive $2.7 billion of this preparedness money if Biden’s request is successful. But otherwise, the NIH, which is the world’s largest funder of biomedical research, would receive a budget of $48.6 billion, reflecting an increase of only about 1.9% from 2023. “I’m quite disappointed in the NIH increase,” says Ellie Dehoney, the vice-president of policy and advocacy at Research!America, an organization in Arlington, Virginia, that advocates for health research. She adds that this amount is insufficient for the agency to invest in the basic research for which it is renowned.

Even ARPA-H, an independent agency in the NIH that was founded last year and will invest in high-risk, high-reward life-sciences research, would see a bigger absolute increase — $1 billion — than the NIH under Biden’s plan. That’s a gamble, Dehoney says, given that ARPA-H is still in its infancy.