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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