Proposed NIH cuts loom at GW

Potential funding cutbacks for science and engineering may be forthcoming as House Republicans eye budget cuts for the National Institutes of Health – an agency that provides nearly half of the University’s research budget in grants.

A House bill aimed at reining in government spending in a bleak economy proposes roughly $1.6 billion in cuts to the NIH budget. NIH grants supported 48 percent of research expenditures at GW last year.

President Barack Obama’s proposed budget offers the NIH a $740 million increase, citing the need to support essential medical research.

In 2010, GW received nearly $56 million for research and fellowships. The University received slightly more than $66 million from the NIH in 2009 and almost $76 million in 2008.

Associate Vice President for Research Anne Hirshfield said the University supports all schools within its umbrella to “expand their research portfolios,” but declined to answer how concerned the University is over the NIH’s proposed budget slashes.

“The University is continually exploring and pursuing all avenues of research including science and engineering fields,” Hirshfield said. “It is important to note generally any decrease in the NIH budget means worthy, lifesaving research goes unfunded.”

NIH spokeswoman Kerry Gorelick declined to comment on how budget cuts would impact grant funding to universities, saying the agency does not comment on proposed legislation and budgets.

Vice President of Research Leo Chalupa said the University is looking toward the National Science Foundation and the National Institute for Standards and Technology as alternate funding sources. He said both have awarded GW funds in the past.

“The Office of the Vice President for Research has been working with the Office of Foundation Relations to pursue opportunities with some of the largest foundations in the country,” Chalupa said. “Additionally, we are working on building our corporate and international partnerships as both have the potential to strengthen all aspects of research at the University.”

Chemistry, biochemistry and molecular biology professor Akos Vertes said many departments depend heavily on NIH grants to fund substantial research. Vertes is a co-founder and co-director of the W. M. Keck Institute for Proteomics Technology and Applications, a research laboratory at GW.

“We have a lot of exciting projects. I think wasteful funding should be minimized,” Vertes said. “I don’t think these projects that have solid promise to improve human health should.”

The largest NIH grants to GW in 2010 were designated to biostatistics and math sciences, internal medicine and pharmacology.

Georgetown University received about $65 million in total funding from the NIH in 2010 and Howard University received a little more than $8 million. American University and Catholic University each received more than $1 million from the NIH last year.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.