During Appropriations Hearing, Durbin Stresses Importance Of Rejecting Draconian Budget Cuts And Fully Investing In Medical Research At NIH

Durbin also questioned NIH Director on status of ALS and cancer research

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, today participated in a subcommittee hearing entitled “A Review of the President’s Fiscal Year 2025 Budget Request for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).”  During the hearing, Durbin, a longtime advocate for funding NIH, stressed the importance of rejecting domestic budget cuts—proposed by House Republicans—which would imperil medical research funding at NIH.  For the past ten years, Congress has—on a bipartisan basis—largely succeeded in fulfilling Durbin’s proposal to provide annual funding increases of five percent plus inflation to medical research at NIH.  As a result, NIH has seen a 60 percent funding increase in that time, raising the research agency’s annual budget from $30 billion to nearly $50 billion today, but future gains are threatened by House Republicans’ insistence on cutting domestic spending.

Durbin said, “Ask the American people—if [adequately funding NIH] is worthy of their tax dollars.  I’m not going to take a penny away from the Pentagon but for god’s sake, NIH is doing things that will save as many lives that work in the Pentagon—maybe more. I encourage the creation of a new [Republican] team.  Senator Capito, you sound like from your questions, you’re deep in the subject and that’s a good thing.  I hope in the memory of Roy Blunt, you will join the effort as we move forward, and I invite others to be part of it.”  

Durbin questioned Dr. Monica Bertagnolli, Director of NIH, about the necessity of funding research programs that address ALS.  During his remarks, Durbin highlighted one of his constituents—Brian Wallach—who is raising awareness through his battle with ALS. 

“What is the status of efforts today on research on ALS?” Durbin asked.

Dr. Bertagnolli responded that following the implementation of the Accelerating Access to Critical Therapies for ALS Act (ACT for ALS), there is collaboration between NIH researchers and the people effected by ALS.  She continued to say, “these goals encompass treatment, management, prevention, and cure.  We have to use that word [cure] because that is what our goal is.”  She continued to say NIH is in the implementation process now through a partnership with FDA, and she also stated NIH is getting ready to announce a “new accelerating medicine partnership for ALS,” and more.

Durbin concluded his questions by asking about the “blood-brain barrier” and how medical research breakthroughs, including recent advancements at Northwestern University that were funded by NIH, in this space hold great hope for those suffering from glioblastoma and other diseases.

“Can you say in a few sentences what we’re finding [in regard to the ‘blood-brain barrier’]?” Durbin asked.

Dr. Bertagnolli responded, “we’re finding is that this barrier prevents drugs from getting in the brain where they need to work and we’re finding certain techniques are able to open that barrier… This [is an] incredible active area of research to bring more effective therapies to those effected by neurologic diseases.” 

Video of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s question in Committee is available here for TV stations.