After years of shrinking paylines, Alzheimer’s researchers are finally getting some seriously good news. The proposed 2016 federal budget allocates an additional $350 million for Alzheimer’s research, a 60 percent boost that will bring total funding to $936 million. The budget passed the House and Senate today, and pundits expect President Obama will sign it as early as this afternoon. With this increase, total Alzheimer’s research dollars will have more than doubled in the five years since the U.S. National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) passed (see Dec 2010 news). The 2016 budget also expands total funding for the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion, sets aside an additional $85 million for the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, and swells the Alzheimer’s research budget at the Department of Defense by $15 million (see Feb 2013 newsSep 2011 news). 

Alzheimer’s researchers hailed the news. “This sends a positive message to younger scientists, who have been leaving the field in droves, that they can initiate and sustain their research careers investigating this disease … I am grateful to Congress for finally seeing the necessity of this action,” Gary Landreth at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, wrote to Alzforum. At the same time, researchers noted that the 2016 research dollars are only the first step. “This is a terrific shot in the arm, short-term, but we must continue to advocate to increase the funding for Alzheimer’s and the NIH in the annual federal budget. We are unlikely to have a meaningful intervention for dementia in the next few years, so we need to be able to go the marathon distance,” Samuel Gandy at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, wrote.

Since NAPA passed, Alzheimer’s research has notched small yearly gains. These amounted to $50 million in 2012, $40 million in 2013, $100 million in 2014, and $25 million in 2015, according to the NIH (see also Feb 2012 newsSep 2013 news; Jan 2014 news). Together, the awards nudged up total research funding about 25 percent over four years.

The size of the current boost comes from continuing advocacy efforts, and may owe something to the 2014 Alzheimer’s Accountability Act, as well (see Apr 2014 news). This act directed the NIH to prepare a Professional Judgment Budget, also known as a bypass budget, to spell out how much money would be needed to meet the milestones specified in the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease. This type of budget goes straight to the president’s desk, bypassing bureaucratic channels, and has only been used for cancer and HIV previously (see Aug 2015 news). 

The NIH recently prepared its first NAPA bypass budget. It calls for total Alzheimer’s funding of $961 million for fiscal year 2017. Importantly, the budget lays out how this money could be put to immediate use to advance the science. Goals include funding new clinical trials, developing new technologies such as wearable sensors to monitor disease progression, and investigating how factors such as inflammation, epigenetics, and sleep quality affect pathology. This detailed plan likely helped persuade Congress to set aside 2016 funds to achieve these goals, said Jennifer Zeitzer, deputy director of public affairs at FASEB. Next year, the proposed 2017 bypass budget of $961 million, which adds $323 million to the base for that year, will allow researchers to continue to build on research begun with 2016 dollars, Maria Carrillo at the Alzheimer’s Association wrote to Alzforum. The NIH will prepare annual bypass budgets through 2025, the target date set by the National Plan for finding effective treatments for AD.—Madolyn Bowman Rogers


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  1. The additional funding for AD research is a very welcome, but long overdue, development for those of us in the research community. The new funding has generated considerable excitement over the prospect of deploying new tools and understanding to dissect the basis of disease pathogenesis. Importantly, this sends the positive message to younger scientists, who have been leaving the field in droves, that they can initiate and sustain their research careers investigating this disease. There has been much despair amongst us that much good science has been left on the table due to funding constraints. I am grateful to Congress for finally seeing the necessity of this action.

  2. The NIH 2016 budget that increases funding for research related to Alzheimer’s disease is both needed and welcomed. All of us dealing with the disease, patients, families affected, and researchers, should thank our governmental representatives. While a lot more is needed, this will certainly start us going in the right direction toward prevention and treatment.

  3. I would like to congratulate the AD researchers in the U.S. for the good news. In contrast, the total Japanese budget for dementia research is less than $50 million, although Japan is one of the most aged countries in the world. The U.S. is indeed a giant in the field.

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News Citations

  1. Early Holiday Gift?—Alzheimer’s Act Goes to President’s Desk
  2. Proposed Brain Activity Map Seeks to Crack Neuronal Code
  3. Department of Defense Offers Alzheimer’s Research Dollars
  4. New Shot in Arm for Alzheimer's Research Announced Today
  5. NIH Funds Prevention Trials and Translational Studies
  6. 2014 Budget Expands Alzheimer’s Funding
  7. Alzheimer’s Accountability Act Puts Price Tag on NAPA Goals
  8. At DIAN Family Meeting, Funding News Caps Talk of Inadequate Services

External Citations

  1. bypass budget

Further Reading