The Coalition for the Life Sciences (CLS) calls on Congress to reject President Trump’s FY18 budget proposal released today. The budget request proposes draconian and careless cuts that will devastate the scientific enterprise by slashing...

The Coalition for the Life Sciences (CLS) would like to thank Congress for its commitment to the federally funded life science enterprise.

National Institutes of Health

The CLS is pleased to see that Congress supported a $2...

Legislative Alerts

JSC Chair Questions Proposal to Double the SBIR

October 26, 2007

The Honorable Evan Bayh
U.S. Senator
Senate Russell 131
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Bayh,

I am writing on behalf of the Joint Steering Committee for Public Policy (JSC) to express our concerns regarding S. 1932 and its intent to double the percentage of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget earmarked for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

The SBIR/STTR programs were established at the NIH with the goal of helping to transform the basic laboratory and patient-oriented research conducted by NIH-funded academic scientists into important applications, by funding competitive grants to relatively small, for-profit laboratories around the country. The JSC believes that the SBIR/STTR programs have become an important component of the NIH mission to advance public health through science. However, we contend that the case for doubling the SBIR/STTR set-aside from its current 2.5% level to 5% is not convincing and that the proposed change would adversely affect the ability of the NIH to support other important components of its portfolio at a time when the agency’s spending power is shrinking.

As you no doubt know, since the doubling of the NIH budget ended in 2003, funding for the NIH has failed to keep pace with biomedical inflation. As a result, in the intervening years, NIH funding has lost more than 12% of its purchasing power. With a continued rise in the number of grant applications from academic investigators, the lack of recent budgetary growth at the NIH has driven the success rates for those investigators, new and old, to unacceptably low levels. Thus, while applications for NIH research project grants have increased by 32% from 2003 to 2006, the number of awards has dropped by 12% and the overall success rate for applicants has fallen from an excess of 30% to 20% or lower depending on the Institute.1

In contrast, the number of new grant applications submitted to the NIH for the SBIR/STTR programs has decreased by 40% in the same period. Because of the mandatory 2.5% set-aside, the SBIR/STTR programs have been awarding grants to applicants whose proposals scored significantly lower in peer review than many applications from academic investigators that could not be funded. On average, SBIR/STTR award applicants received priority scores of 189, and it is very common for a Phase 1 grant to receive a score of above 250. (In contrast, the average priority score required for funding a research project grant in 2006 was 151. )

In light of this situation, any increase in the percentage of the NIH budget earmarked for support of the SBIR/STTR programs would diminish the already scarce NIH funds available for investigators in other categories, and such increases would likely reduce the overall quality of work supported by the NIH. For these reasons, we urge you to reconsider S. 1932. Furthermore, we recommend that before any changes are made in the allocation of resources for the NIH’s SBIR/STTR programs, a review of those programs should be conducted.

The JSC appreciates the commitment you have shown to the NIH and the nation’s medical research efforts. We look forward to working with you to promote the highest quality research critical to our nation's health.


Harold Varmus, M.D.
Chair, Joint Steering Committee for Public Policy
President, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Former Director, National Institutes of Health
1989 Nobel Laureate in Medicine

The JSC is a coalition of six nonprofit, science-based organizations, representing over 70,000 scientists, that have joined together to make the case for sound federal policies for biomedical research.

1AAAS R&D report for the NIH in the FY2008 budget; Kei Koizumi, Director, R&D Budget and Policy Program; AAAS

Thank you for Your Work on Behalf of the NIH

Thank you for supporting the NIH

Despite the heroic efforts of many of you, the House of Representatives failed to override the veto of the FY 2008 Labor-Health and Human Services appropriations bill (Labor-HHS). The final vote was 277-141; just two votes shy of the 2/3rds majority required to override a Presidential veto.

It is extremely difficult to override a Presidential veto, yet the vote tally clearly shows your voices were heard. You deserve much praise for heeding the call to action, and Congress deserves credit for listening to the scientific community.

Next Steps

First, if your Member of Congress voted to override the veto, please take a few minutes to thank them. Not enough people thank their Representatives for doing the right thing. This is especially important if your Member of Congress was listed on the "Critical Republican" list. For your convenience, there is a sample thank you letter at

Second, we will have to wait to see what happens next for the NIH budget. During the House debate, House Appropriations Committee Chair David Obey (D-WI) said that if the veto were not overridden, it would mean $700 million less for the NIH than the $30 billion included in the Labor-HHS bill. It remains to be seen what will actually happen.

We still have challenges ahead of us in this budget season. I will be in touch with in the days and weeks to come to let you know what is happening and what actions need to be taken.

Thank you to everyone who worked so hard in support of overriding the veto.

Lynn Marquis
National Coordinator
Joint Steering Committee for Public Policy

Congress Close to Agreement on FY2008 Funding for the NIH and NSF

Congress is close to finalizing the year-end appropriations bill, set to fund all government agencies (except the Pentagon) for Fiscal Year 2008. Under the so-called Omnibus Appropriations bill, the NIH will receive $29.229 billion, up 1.3%, a $329 million increase over FY07. The bill also proposes to fund NSF at $6.07 billion, up 2.5% from FY07's $5.92 billion level.