WASHINGTON -- The unity of a coalition that each year campaigns for a large increase in the NIH budget has been splintered by a group of bench scientists who say the agency should fund more grants to individual investigators.

The disagreement reflects the growing strain on the scientific community from declining funding rates for such grants and the perception of some scientists that their work is being squeezed out by megaprojects like the war against AIDS and the effort to map and sequence the human genome.

Last month the 8,000-member American Society of Biochemists and Molecular Biologists (ASBMB) joined with the 6,500-member American Society of Cell Biology to hire Washington lobbyist Peter Kyros. His assignment is to persuade Congress to spend $200 million more than the Bush administration has requested for National Institutes of Health grants to individuals. That extra money would boost from 5,100 to 6,100 the number of...

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