WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Look for biotechnology to get a hugeboost in the budget of the National Institutes of Health for nextyear, and for the coming decades. That's because NIH DirectorBernadine Healy's controversial strategic plan for NIH's next 20years emphasized so-called "critical technologies," notablybiotechnology and molecular medicine, an NIH official told asymposium of the American Association for the Advancementof Science on Thursday.

Critical technologies account for $6 billion of the budget requestfor fiscal year 1994, or 55.9 percent of the $10.7 billion budget.For fiscal '93, critical technologies accounted for 55.7 percent ofa $10.3 billion overall budget.

Biotechnology "is a large portion of critical technology. That'swhere it centers," said NIH's director of financial services,Leamon Lee. "If you talk about differential growth in that area,it benefits greatly." But Lee did not specify numbers.

The other critical technologies are immunology and vaccines,structural biology, and cellular and integrative biology.

Biotechnology figures heavily in the budget requests of all ofthe NIH's 20 institutes, but most prominently in the NationalInstitute of General Medical Science and the National HeartInstitute, said Lee.

The Heart Institute accounts for more than 10 percent of NIH'sbudget, but shows a 1.3 percent decline for 1994. The MedicalScience Institute's budget is just under 8 percent of the budgetfor the entire NIH, and shows a tiny 0.1 percent increase forfiscal 1994. The institute's total budget is scheduled to increase3.2 percent for fiscal 1994.

At $134 million for fiscal 1994, the Human Genome Projectshows a whopping 26.8 percent increase over the fiscal 1993estimated, but it represents a mere 1.25 percent of NIH'sbudget.

The strategic plan represents one of 13 budget and policypriorities for the 1994 fiscal year, which also include theHuman Genome program, investigator-initiated research,women's health, AIDS and vaccine development.

Congress, which will probably vote on the budget request inMay or June, has heretofore considered NIH a sacred cow. Butwhether the agency will get the usual generous increase inthese times of cutbacks in members' pet programs such as jobtraining and immunization is uncertain, said Susan Quantius, astaff assistant on the subcommittee for Labor, Health andHuman Services, Education, and Related Agencies of the HouseCommittee on Appropriations.

-- David C. Holzman Washington Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.