All told, NIH funding for just the School of Medicine totaled $95.1 million between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013.
An already stagnant budget was made worse this spring when Congress and the White House failed to prevent sequestration. The NIH was forced to cut $1.7 billion from its budget by the end of September, lowering its purchasing power about 25 percent, compared with 2003.
Roughly six months into sequestration, however, the situation is worse than predicted. Internal NIH estimates show that it will end up cutting more than the 700 research grants the institutes initially planned to sacrifice in the name of austerity. If lawmakers fail to replace sequestration at the end of September, that number could rise above 1,000 as the NIH absorbs another 2 percent budget cut on top of the 5 percent one this fiscal year.
"It is so unimaginable that I would be in a position of somehow saying that this country is unable to see the rationality of covering what biomedicine can do," Collins said, in an interview with The Huffington Post. "But I'm not sure from what I see right now that rationality carries the day."
The real-world implications of irrationality, Collins added, are quite grave. His most vivid example is the flu vaccine, which he says could be as close as five years away from discovery. NIH officials are working to insulate that program from budget cuts. But sequestration will, at the very least, mean that research goes slower than it could.
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