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Alzheimer’s Research Questioned at Senate Hearing

Discussion at a Senate hearing on the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) fiscal year 2013 budget made it clear that the $80 million proposed earlier this year by President Obama for Alzheimer’s research may not be allocated to the cause. Regardless, the NIH emphasized its commitment to funding research on Alzheimer’s disease and initiatives that support senior’s health and wellbeing.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriation’s Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies held a hearing discussing all aspects of the NIH budget for the next fiscal year. Richard J. Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging, outlined the goals of the agency. “The NIA leads the national effort to understand aging and to identify and develop interventions that will help older adults enjoy robust health and independence, remain physically active, and continue to make positive contributions to their families and communities,” said Richard J. Hodes. Hodes outlined his plans for FY 2013 including research on the basic mechanisms of aging, grants to encourage more scientists to enter a career in aging research, and initiatives that encourage physical activity among older adults.

Panelists also discussed the $80 million increase in funding for Alzheimer’s research included in President Obama’s budget request, which provoked some push back from Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the subcommittee.

“I’m a strong supporter of Alzheimer’s research, but this $80 million isn’t happening,” said Senator Harkin. “NIH has the flexibility to direct a larger share of its funding to Alzheimer’s research within its own budget assuming two things: one, there are enough scientific opportunities to warrant an increase, and secondly that researchers submit enough high-quality applications.”

Harkin reasoned that the $80 million requested by the President was to be taken out of the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which is not appropriate since Alzheimer’s research has not yet produced any proven preventative measures. Nevertheless, Harkin emphasized his support of more funding from other sources.

“It is something we need to pay attention to,” said Chairman Harkin. “We need more research in that area.”

Read testimony and watch the complete hearing: Hearing on FY13 NIH Budget.

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