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January 11, 2007

Pitt funds 5 projects affected by NIH cuts

Pitt has provided “bridge funding” of $375,000 for five research projects affected by National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding cutbacks. The special funding program, launched last fall, seeks to keep afloat ongoing biomedical research projects that were not renewed by the NIH despite receiving favorable reviews.

Michelle S. Broido, associate vice chancellor for basic biomedical research and director, Office of Research, Health Sciences (OORHS), said that the committee evaluating projects for the special funding received 12 applications.

The funding for the approved projects came from school and department budgets, as well as from senior vice chancellor for Health Sciences discretionary funds, Broido pointed out.

The evaluating committee, which she co-chairs, prioritized projects based on specific needs, investigator track record, scientific merit, the likelihood that the research would receive external funding within one year and funds available.

The second application period, which closed last week, garnered 13 applications, Broido said. Decisions on those applications will be made in about a month, she said.

In fiscal year 2005, the most recent figures available, Pitt and its affiliates garnered 1,065 individual awards totaling $431.4 million from NIH. That placed Pitt at No. 7 nationally in NIH funding among educational institutions and their affiliates. (In Pitt’s case, affiliates are Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Magee-Womens Health Corp., Mellon Pitt Corp., Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Institute and UPMC McKeesport, according to OORHS.)

Under President Bush’s federal budget proposal for fiscal year 2007, which began Oct. 1, NIH funding would be frozen at the FY06 level of $28.6 billion.

The U.S. Congress did not pass a budget before adjourning last month, but did extend the FY06 NIH budget until Feb. 15 through a continuing resolution. That resolution also excluded increases to offset the biomedical research inflation rate, which has been running about 4 percent in the last few years, Broido said.

In a Dec. 15 statement, the NIH announced fiscal policies governing FY07. “Inflationary adjustments for existing non-competing renewal awards will not be made in FY07,” the NIH stated. “Institutes and centers will maintain the flexibility to supplement such non-competing awards on a case-by-case basis according to scientific and programmatic imperatives. However, such supplements will not be considered as part of the base for future budgetary adjustments.”

“The Democrats have indicated that they intend to propose increases in the NIH budget in future years,” Broido said. “But they’ve already recommended keeping the continuing resolution going for this fiscal year,” which ends Sept. 30, she said.

The next deadline to apply for Pitt’s bridge funding is May 1. For bridge funding application procedures and guidelines, visit (Click on the link Health Sciences Bridge Funding Program.)

—Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 39 Issue 9

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