Questioning NIH priorities

Congressional panel explores how agency allocates research spending

Ted Agres(

WASHINGTON, DC—Amid various investigations into allegations of financial conflicts of interest at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a congressional panel yesterday (June 2) questioned senior officials over how the agency sets priorities for conducting research. Legislators plan to examine these priorities in greater detail during a reauthorization process of NIH's 27 institutes and centers planned for later this year.

"The priority-setting process at NIH and its centers and institutes has drawn questions, God knows, from members of Congress, patient advocacy groups, and others," said Rep. Michael Bilirakis (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health. "I believe much of this criticism is because the priority-setting process is extremely complicated, especially the grant approval process, and because NIH lacks transparency in many of its processes."

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) noted that NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni "doesn't have a lot of control" over the 27 institutes and...

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