Today the Senate Committee on Appropriations approved a bill that would boost U.S. government funding for Alzheimer’s disease to almost $1.4 billion in fiscal year 2017. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS), and subcommittee ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) co-led the bipartisan effort. The bill was approved on a 29-1 vote, receiving strong support from both Democrats and Republicans. It will now go to the Senate for consideration before the House of Representatives takes it up for debate.

"There simply is no investment that promises greater return than our investment in biomedical research,” said Senator Susan Collins, (R–Maine), co-chair of the Congressional Alzheimer’s Task Force. She noted that the Advisory Council to the National Alzheimer’s Project Act has said that $2 billion a year is needed to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s by 2025 (April 2014 news). “The nearly $1.4 billion in this bill represents tremendous progress toward that goal.

“This is wonderful news,” wrote Todd Golde, University of Florida, Gainesville, to Alzforum. “These year-over-year increases begin to better align NIH funding with the overall burden and impact of the disease. Hopefully, these new funds will help re-energize and accelerate our collective efforts with the ultimate goal of developing novel interventions that benefit patients.”

If signed into law, the FY2017 Labor-HHS bill would fund the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at $34 billion, $2 billion more than they received in fiscal 2016. The bill specifies that $1.39 billion go to research on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, a $400 million hike over the current fiscal year. That triples the NIH budget for Alzheimer’s that was available when the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) was signed into law (Dec 2010 news). “This nearly 300 percent increase over four years is truly a remarkable and historic commitment from the federal government,” wrote Bruce Lamb, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis. “It coincides with a time of great scientific advances in the field that have the potential to propel the field forward and ultimately develop a treatment by year 2025 as laid out in NAPA.”

The bill would also set aside $250 million for the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative and $300 million for the Precision Medicine Initiative—each an increase of $100 million over FY2016. Supported by President Obama, BRAIN plans to map electrical activity in the human brain down to the last neuron (Feb 2013 news). 

The proposed 40 percent increase in funding for research on Alzheimer’s and related dementias comes after last year’s 60 percent hike (Dec 2015 news), and shortly after the British Government pledged £150 million to support the new Dementia Research Institute in the United Kingdom (May 2016 news). 

Guidance for how to spend the U.S. funds will come from the consensus recommendations agreed upon at the 2015 Summit on Alzheimer’s Disease and the AD-Related Dementias Summit 2016 (see Feb 2015 conference seriesApr 2016 conference series). These recommendations inform annual updates of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease as well as the yearly bypass budget, an estimate the NIH provides directly to Congress of the funding they suggest for the following fiscal year.

“This is now a seamless exercise of annual increases with a clear plan to apply the funds in order to find a prevention or treatment by 2025,” said George Vradenburg of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s in Chevy Chase, Maryland. This federal boost would come amidst significant private investment, improvements in the clinical trial system, and industry investment in innovative medicines, he said. “We still have a long way to go, but this is all good momentum.”—Gwyneth Dickey Zakaib

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  1. This is fantastic news and comes on the heels of the $350 million increase last year! Thanks to the efforts of a large number of individuals and institutions, but especially the Alzheimer’s Association, the funding landscape for Alzheimer’s research has dramatically changed over the past several years. According to NIH, Alzheimer’s research funding has increased from ~$500 million in FY 2013 to close to $1 billion in FY 2016. If the $400 million approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee is adopted in the final budget, this will increase to ~$1.4 billion in 2017, as this article suggests. This nearly 300 percent increase in funding over four years is truly a remarkable and historic commitment from the federal government, coinciding with a time of great scientific advances in the field (biological mechanisms/targets, biomarkers, clinical trials and more) that have the potential to propel the field forward to ultimately develop a treatment by year 2025, as laid out in the National Alzheimer’s Project Act. Further, with Dr. Eliezer Masliah, a leading Alzheimer’s researcher from UCSD, becoming the director of the Division of Neuroscience (where a large proportion of the Alzheimer’s portfolio is) at NIA on July 1 of this year, one can truly sense the momentum building. As a research community, we must continue to advocate for these commitments from the federal government to insure that these investments are realized as well as redouble our efforts towards making a difference for patients and their families.

  2. This is the right time to invest in Alzheimer's research, as several new insights have really changed our understanding of the disease. It is critical to keep the momentum going. It feels as if we are at the beginning of the end—the beginning of understanding enough to end this disease. The new funding will give us the boost we need to carry this through.

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References

News Citations

  1. Alzheimer’s Accountability Act Puts Price Tag on NAPA Goals
  2. Early Holiday Gift?—Alzheimer’s Act Goes to President’s Desk
  3. Proposed Brain Activity Map Seeks to Crack Neuronal Code
  4. Proposed 2016 Budget Boosts Alzheimer’s Funding By 60 Percent
  5. New Dementia Research Institute Announced for the U.K.

Conference Coverage Series Citations

  1. Alzheimer’s Disease Research Summit 2015
  2. Alzheimer's Disease-Related Dementias 2016 Summit

External Citations

  1. approved
  2. National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease
  3. bypass budget

Further Reading

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