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What Will the 2024 Funding Climate Look Like?

Full disclosure: I cannot answer that question. I am seeing signs that worry me, though, so this newsletter will cover a few items related to budget proposals, which is the best we can do at this point. Unless you have been under a large rock, you know that recently a budget shutdown was narrowly averted, which means that no federal operating budget has been finalized. The final budget is very important for most of my clients, because most are majority funded by the federal government, through NIH or NSF. So, with a caveat that nothing is set in stone yet, I want to discuss some possible outcomes. Hopefully, thinking about next year may motivate you to get those applications in.

The following text is from this article “Grim NIH, NSF Budget News, Including Policy Landmines” published this summer in the American Society for Cell Biology: “The NIH funding bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee includes a 6.2% cut to the Fiscal Year 2024 NIH budget. Included in the 6.2% cut is a 2.6% cut in the NIGMS budget, the NCI budget is reduced by 2.9%, and the NIAID budget is slashed by 22.9%. The cuts to the NIH by the Republican-led House are in stark contrast to recent Republican-authored budgets. In recent years, budgets for the NIH have done better under Republican majorities, in part because Republicans support fewer programs within the annual Departments of Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill, which funds the NIH.”

As mentioned, these budgets are not finalized but it is concerning that the Senate budget and the House budget are quite far apart. Probably neither will get exactly what they want, but since the Senate started off asking for virtually flat budgets, with an an overall increase of 2.4% and flat budgets for NIGMS and NIAID, this doesn’t bode well for where budgets might end up. The article also mentions some concerning riders, such as banning funding to research that uses certain types of fetal tissue. Similarly, reauthorization of Pepfar is now mired in an abortion debate, jeopardizing a source of funding that has been reliably available since 2003, when President George W. Bush authorized it, and which has had broad bipartisan support until now. None of this bodes well for protecting research monies generally, or for the likelihood of smooth bipartisan cooperation. I know, shocking.

What About Paylines for 2024 (Spoiler Alert: Get that Proposal in ASAP)

NIAID is one of the largest agencies, with about 6.5B $US allocated in 2023; NCI had a $7.8B budget in 2023 and is (for now) protected by allocations such as the Cancer Moonshot and others. However, NIAID already announced they have reduced the payline for 2024, based on projected budgets. So, expect it to be harder to be funded by NIAID next year. However, they also said this “note that we set paylines conservatively and fund more applications at the end of the fiscal year when we have a clearer budget picture”. If you have a proposal that could go to NIAID languishing in a drawer, I urge you to get in before January, for this reason and because funding for 2024 is up in air and projected to get worse. This may be true generally for all NIH institutes as they try to spend down 2023 $ in an uncertain budget climate.

NIGMS is projecting a flat budget, at $3.2B. However, they have moved the $ around a bit, decreasing $ to investigator initiated RPGs and increasing MIRA funds, new investigator awards, and awards to minority-serving institutions (MSI). If you are in any of those categories, or partnering with an MSI, this may help you. It’s worth reading in detail what they are prioritizing next year.

Is ARPA-H on Your Radar?

Don’t forget about this brand new institute, ARPA-H. I am not entirely clear on what they do/fund and their funding model is complicated, but they are asking for 50% more money than they got in 2023 (!), for a total budget of $2.5B. Might as well check them out, maybe you have some proposals that can be shuttled there. Who doesn’t want to get in on “advancing high potential, high-impact biomedical and health research that cannot be readily accomplished through traditional research or commercial activity”? Since they are new and asking for more $, it’s worth a few minutes on their website.

As always, let me know how your proposals are faring and I am here if you need me…!

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