Imaging institute receives first official budget as part of NIH

January 23, 2002

Task force developing criteria to transfer grantsThe wheels of the federal bureaucracy turn slowly-but turn they do.On Jan. 10, President Bush signed the fiscal year 2002 Appropriations Bill, authorizing a total budget of $112

Task force developing criteria to transfer grants

The wheels of the federal bureaucracy turn slowly-but turn they do.

On Jan. 10, President Bush signed the fiscal year 2002 Appropriations Bill, authorizing a total budget of $112 million for the National Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB). The final budget, the institute's first official one, is a compromise: The House recommended $107 million, while the Senate recommended $140 million. NIBIB is now able to award research and training grants, and the institute can begin consolidating its power base.

Some two decades have passed since proponents in the radiology community launched the first lobbying efforts to create an institute within the National Institutes of Health that would have the support of medical imaging as its primary directive. In 2000, Congress and the Clinton Administration enacted legislation for NIBIB but provided just $2 million in its first year to build the necessary infrastructure. The lean times may be over now that the FY2002 appropriations are final, but the haggling has just begun.

About $67 million of NIBIB's budget will come from grants currently being administered elsewhere within the NIH. On Jan. 9, NIBIB established a working group to review research grants funded by other NIH components and recommend the transfer of certain grants to the new institute. Congressional mandate led NIBIB to form this task force so that consistent criteria would be applied when grants to be transferred are chosen. The group is scheduled to submit its findings to the House and Senate appropriations committees by March 31.

Some 300 ongoing NIH-funded projects conceivably could be transferred, according to NIBIB acting director Donna J. Dean, Ph.D. While the venue for administering these monies will change, the particulars of the projects will not. In a session focused on NIBIB policy at the RSNA meeting, Dean assured grantees they would receive all their grant money for the allotted time.

Having final approval of the institute's budget is a relief for Dean and, ultimately, her permanent successor, who has yet to be chosen. Until last August, Dean's staff consisted of one other person. She now directs a staff of 10, mostly administrative personnel, who occupy a permanent residence on the NIH campus. Refurbishment efforts on the NIH campus are under way to accommodate about 50 staff.

The headway made by NIBIB is a relief for the radiology community as well. Until NBIB was signed into law in late 2000, medical imaging was viewed as an enabling technology by disease-centric institutes and centers, each of which administered grants for its development or supported it through in-house research aimed at a disease-based mission.

NIBIB plans to reach out to others on the NIH campus, integrating its own agenda with those of other institutes and centers. The institute has several initiatives for FY2002: to team with the National Cancer Institute in the development of novel technologies for in vivo imaging; to cooperate with the National Institute of Mental Health to develop PET and SPECT ligands; and, in concert with the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders, to develop neuroimaging technology to assess pediatric populations. NIBIB will also work with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute on technologies for functionally assessing the heart, vasculature, lung, and blood. A broad partnership will be sought with the National Center for Research Resources, which supports the development of a broad range of biomedical technologies.