White House Mandates NIH AIDS Research Funds Be Funneled to New Anthrax Vaccine DevelopmentNIH studies on AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other infectious diseases may be shortened in length because of a White House mandate stating that NIH should shift funding from existing research in order to finance efforts to develop a new anthrax vaccine, Long Island Newsday reports. More than 500 researchers will be affected by the order, which was announced last month and clarified in a June 2 letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee from Office of Management and Budget Director Joshua Bolten. Funding to develop a new anthrax vaccine was not included in the $1.75 billion appropriated for bioterrorism research for fiscal years 2003 and 2004; however, Congress last year approved $43 million of a $250 million White House request to fund anthrax research. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that Bush administration officials gave NIH the "unprecedented" order to develop a new vaccine without additional funding, Newsday reports. Further, it is the first time the agency has been ordered to conduct a "major applied science program," Fauci said, according to Newsday. Although an anthrax vaccine already exists and is supported by groups such as the American Medical Association, Congress and the Bush administration have called for new vaccines based on "more advanced technology," Newsday reports.
The shift in funding will likely mean that studies on other infectious diseases will be ended earlier than expected if researchers cannot find additional money, Dr. Dan Kruitzkes, an AIDS researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and a member of the board of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said. According to IDSA, four-year projects will likely be reduced to three-and-a-half years and two-year projects will be shortened to one-and-a-half years. "We're not happy about it, but we tried to do what was least painful," Fauci said. One unnamed AIDS researcher said the atmosphere in the field is "the worst I've seen in my 30 years of research." Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) on July 11 sent President Bush a letter asking him to reconsider the anthrax vaccine funding policy, but they had not received a response as of Friday, aides said (Garrett, Long Island Newsday, 7/28).