By Lisa Seachrist

Washington Editor

WASHINGTON — President Clinton unveiled the first balanced budget proposal in 30 years this week and it includes the "largest ever increase" for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The president's budget proposal calls for $1.73 trillion in spending and promises a $9.5 billion surplus at the end of the fiscal year. Over the next five years, that surplus is expected to grow to $218.8 billion. Even though the president pledged to save the surplus to shore up the Social Security system, Clinton found a means to increase the NIH budget by $1.15 billion over the FY98 allocation of $13.6 billion.

"[This budget] will lend to future generations the gift of scientific and medical advances," Clinton said. "The 21st Century Research Fund, the largest funding increase ever for the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the National Cancer Institute, will speed the progress of biomedical breakthroughs in the fight against many of our deadliest diseases."

Clinton and Vice President Al Gore announced the 21st Century Research Fund in January in order to launch a new era of "pathbreaking scientific inquiry."

In addition to increasing NIH funding by 8.4 percent, Clinton intends to increase the funding of the agency by 50 percent over five years.

"Because today, the pace of medical discovery is limited not by science or imagination, but mostly by resources, the new resources will allow us to boost the number of funded research grants to an all-time high," said Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala. "NIH will redouble its attack on our most defiant diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, AIDS, Alzheimer's, cancer, Parkinson's, malaria and more."

Cancer research takes a high priority in Clinton's FY99 budget proposal. In an effort to "reinvigorate the war on cancer," funding for NIH-sponsored cancer research will increase by 65 percent by the year 2003.

The FY99 allocation for the FDA calls for an 18 percent increase; however, the bulk of this increase is targeted to food safety and youth tobacco prevention initiatives. The administration expects to collect $132 million from the Prescription Drug and User Fee Act fees in FY99.

BIO Supports Clinton; Wants Bigger Spending Hike

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) endorsed the president's proposal for increasing NIH funding.

"BIO is pleased with President Clinton's commitment to America's preeminent agency for medical research," BIO President Carl Feldbaum said in a written statement. "Federal funding of NIH and other biomedical research agencies provides a critical foundation for research into therapies and cures for diseases such as AIDS, breast, ovarian and prostate cancers, heart disease and Alzheimer's."

However, BIO, in conjunction with a coalition of nearly 200 patient and voluntary health groups, medical and scientific societies, academic and research organizations and industry representatives, intends to lobby for an annual 15 percent increase in NIH funding, which would double the agency's allocation in five years.

The $1.73 trillion FY99 budget proposal is based on raising revenues by $81.5 billion over the next five years, the bulk of which would come from the national tobacco settlement reached last year. However, Congress has yet to approve the settlement, and some have predicted that the settlement will never be enacted by Congress. *