Credit: The National Institutes of Health, Director, Francis S. Collins MD, PhD

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
National Institutes of Health<http://www.nih.gov/>
For Immediate Release: Monday, June 3, 2013
CONTACT: NIH Office of Communications, 301-496-5787 



The National Institutes of Health is the nation’s medical research agency and the leading supporter of biomedical research in the world.  NIH’s mission is to seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and apply that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce the burdens of illness and disability. Due in large measure to NIH research, a person born in the United States today can expect to live nearly 30 years longer than someone born in 1900.

More than 80 percent of the NIH’s budget goes to over 300,000 research personnel at more than 2,500 universities and research institutions throughout the United States. In addition, about 6,000 scientists work in NIH’s own Intramural Research laboratories, most of which are on the NIH main campus in Bethesda, Md. The main campus is also home to the NIH Clinical Center, the largest hospital in the world totally dedicated to clinical research.


On March 1, 2013, as required by statute, President Obama signed an order initiating sequestration. The sequestration requires NIH to cut 5 percent or $1.55 billion of its fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget. NIH must apply the cut evenly across all programs, projects, and activities (PPAs), which are primarily NIH institutes and centers. This means every area of medical research will be affected.


NIH FY2013Operating Plan <officeofbudget.od.nih.gov/pdfs/FY13/FY%202013%20Full-Year%20CR%20Operating%20Plan%20Posting.pdf>

NIH FY2013 Operating Plan Mechanism Table <http://officeofbudget.od.nih.gov/pdfs/FY14/FY%202013%20Mechanism%20Table%20-%20Operating%20Plan%20-%20NIH%20Totals%20(5).pdf>

NIH Guide Notice: Fiscal Policy for Grant Awards FY2013 <http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-13-064.html>
NIH Institutes and Centers FY2013 Funding Strategies <http://grants.nih.gov/grants/financial/index.htm#strategies>


While much of these decreases are due to sequester, NIH funding is always a dynamic situation with multiple drivers:

— Approximately 700 fewer competitive research project grants issued
— Approximately750 fewer new patients admitted to the NIH Clinical Center
— No increase in stipends for National Research Service Award recipients in FY2013


— Delay in medical progress:
— Medical breakthroughs do not happen overnight. In almost all instances, breakthrough discoveries result from years of incremental research to understand how disease starts and progresses.
— Even after the cause and potential drug target of a disease is discovered, it takes on average 13 years and $1 billion to develop a treatment for that target.
— Therefore, cuts to research are delaying progress in medical breakthroughs, including:
— development of better cancer drugs that zero in on a tumor with fewer side effects
— research on a universal flu vaccine that could fight every strain of influenza without needing a yearly shot.
— prevention of debilitating chronic conditions that are costly to society and delay development of more effective treatments for common and rare diseases affecting millions of Americans.

— Risk to scientific workforce:
— NIH drives job creation and economic growth. NIH research funding directly supports hundreds of thousands of American jobs and serves as a foundation for the medical innovation sector, which employs 1 million U.S. citizens. Cuts to NIH funding will have an economic impact in communities throughout the U.S. For every six applications submitted to the NIH, only one will be funded. Sequestration is reducing the overall funding available for grants. See the history of NIH funding success rates <http://report.nih.gov/NIHDatabook/Charts/Default.aspx?showm=Y&chartId=124&catId=13>.


Q)  How many fewer grants will be awarded?

A)  Approximately 700 fewer research project grants compared to FY 2012.

Q) Have the institutes and centers announced their adjusted paylines based on these cuts?
A) The adjusted NIH Institute and Center (IC) paylines and funding strategies can be found here: <http://grants.nih.gov/grants/financial/index.htm#strategies>

Q) What percent cut will be made to existing grants?
A) Reductions to noncompeting research project grants (RPG) vary depending on the circumstances of the particular IC. The NIH-wide average is -4.7 percent.

Q) Will the duration of existing grants be shortened to accommodate the cuts?
A) In general, no.

Q) Will all grants receive the same percentage cut or will some grants be cut more than others?
A) Institutes and centers have flexibility to accommodate the new budget level in a fashion that allows them to meet their scientific and strategic goals. As noted above, there are different percentages for different ICs, and in some cases for different mechanisms within an IC (RPGs, Centers, etc.). In addition, there may be reductions to grants for reasons other than sequestration, as is the case every year.

Q) Will certain areas of science that are at a critical juncture be affected by these cuts?
A) All areas of science are expected to be affected.

Q Will some areas of science be affected more than others?
A) The sequester does not stipulate the precise reduction to each scientific area. However, it is likely that most scientific areas will be reduced by about 5 percent because the sequester is being applied broadly at the NIH institute and center level.

Q) What will be the impact of these cuts to NIH’s intramural research at its Bethesda campus and off-campus facilities?
A) The impact on NIH’s intramural research is substantial, especially because it applies retroactively to spending since Oct. 1, 2012. That can double the effect — a full year’s cut has to be absorbed in less than half a year.

Q) Will NIH be furloughing or cutting employees at its NIH campus and off-campus facilities?
A) There are no current plans to do so. At present, HHS is pursuing non-furlough administrative cost savings such as delayed/forgone hiring and reducing administrative services contracts so that furloughs and layoffs can be avoided. Additionally, employee salaries at NIH make up a very small percentage (only 7 percent) of the NIH budget.

Q) How will current patients at the NIH Clinical Center be affected?
A) Services to patients will not be reduced.

Q) Will the NIH Clinical Center see fewer patients because of the cuts?
A) Approximately 750 fewer new patients will be admitted to the NIH Clinical Center hospital in 2013 or a decrease from 10,695 new patients in 2012 to approximately 9,945 new patients in 2013. While much of this decrease is due to funding, clinical activity is always a dynamic situation with multiple drivers.

Q) Will the sequester cut need to be applied to the FY 2014 budget?
A) The President’s FY 2014 Budget would replace sequestration and reduce the deficit in a balanced way. The President is ready to work with Congress to further reduce deficits while continuing to make critical investments.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit <www.nih.gov>.



Monday June 3, 2013


Dear NIH Team,


I read your email with great interest and concern, since we are in the pharmaceutical industry and interact with several government agencies like the FDA, NIH, etc.


The one area that seems to be widening the gap between the haves and have-nots, is education. Emergency measures need to be put in place to get Americans up to speed, when it comes to the levels of education they must master in order to make sense of the 21st century.


Of equal, (if not more) importance is the educational level of the politicians who make stupid decisions like this Sequester. There should be a much higher bar for all politicians. Four years of college is now like a high school diploma used to be. People making decisions that affect the lives of millions of people need to have a strong background in science, finance, economics, history, the arts, math, robotics, computer science, etc etc etc. PhDs preferred. How can we demand

smarter politicians who help to grow the U.S. and all Americans, instead of holding us all back.


Very upsetting news,


the harder we work, the luckier we get

Joyce Hays, CEO
Target Health Inc.
261 Madison Avenue
24th Floor
New York, NY 10016
P: 212-876-5000
F: 212-369-8799
E: joycehays@targethealth.com
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B: http://BLOG.targethealth.com


A man herding sheep at 13,500 feet above sea level in northeast India
Credit: European Pressphoto Agency



The New York Times, May/June 2013, by Carl Zimmer  —  In the hearts of evolutionary biologists, mountains occupy a special place. It’s not just their physical majesty: mountains also have an unmatched power to drive human evolution. Starting tens of thousands of years ago, people moved to high altitudes, and there they experienced natural selection that has reworked their biology.


“This is the most extreme example in humans that you can find,” said Rasmus Nielsen, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California at Berkeley.

Humans have adapted to mountainous environments just as Charles Darwin predicted. To discover how this occurred, scientists are now examining the DNA of people who scaled mountains in different parts of the world.

“There’s this beautiful experiment in natural selection going on,” says Anna Di Rienzo, a professor of human genetics at the University of Chicago. “You can really ask questions central to evolutionary biology.”

When people from low elevations climb to higher ones, they start struggling for oxygen. At 12,000 feet, each breath delivers only 60 percent of the oxygen that the same breath would at sea level. Even a slow walk can be exhausting, because the body can get so little fuel.

In the face of this stress, people respond in several ways. They produce more hemoglobin, the molecule that ferries oxygen from the lungs. Their resting heart rate increases, as does their breath rate. These adjustments help raise the amount of oxygen in the blood, but it never regains its former level.

Extra hemoglobin is not a good long-term solution to life at high altitudes, because it can lead to blood clots. Women moving from low altitudes to high ones also have more trouble delivering oxygen to their babies during pregnancy. Studies have shown that the rate of low-birth-weight babies is twice as high at 6,000 feet as it is at sea level.

Life in the mountains is easier for people whose ancestors have lived there for millenniums. They don’t suffer from altitude sickness. Women from high-altitude populations give birth to normal-size babies.

Scientists visiting some of those populations have discovered a number of biological adaptations in the inhabitants’ bodies. In Tibet, for example, people have broader arteries and capillaries. In the Andes, they can dissolve more oxygen into their blood.

Evolutionary biologists reasoned that natural selection produced these adaptations as each population settled at a high elevation. People with mutations that let them withstand low oxygen levels would be more likely to survive and have healthy children. Several teams of scientists have traveled to the mountains to gather DNA samples from people and search for traces of that evolution.

In 2010, Dr. Nielsen and his colleagues found variants of certain genes that were much more common in Tibetans than in the Han, the major ethnic group in China, who have lived for thousands of years at lower altitudes. By a wide margin, the winner was a gene called EPAS1. People with different variants turned out to have different levels of hemoglobin, suggesting that the gene was important to adapting to life at high altitudes.

Recently, Dr. Nielsen and another group of colleagues published a study on people who live in the highlands of Ethiopia. They found no evidence that EPAS1 had evolved there as it did in Tibet. Instead, a different gene, BHLHE41, appeared to have experienced natural selection.

Two other teams of scientists have recently searched for high-altitude genes in Ethiopians, and neither put BHLHE41 on their list. It’s possible that Dr. Nielsen’s method is more sensitive than the others, but that remains to be proved. “It’s going to take a while to sort through the discrepancies in Ethiopia,” said Dr. Di Rienzo, a co-author of one of the other studies.

It will be intriguing to see that unfold. BHLHE41 and EPAS1 turn out to have something in common: they work together in a network of genes that lets us cope with low oxygen levels. Even at sea level, low oxygen can threaten our bodies from time to time. Exercise can strip it from our muscles, while inflammation can eliminate it from wounds. The oxygen-sensing pathway triggers defenses to protect our bodies from damage.

Dr. Nielsen’s study suggests that evolution has stumbled across a way to retool this pathway to help people live at high altitudes. But it turns out there’s more than one way to retool a pathway. Though evolution has some creative freedom, it seems to stick to a few themes.