NCI Trims Operating Expenses for 2019

Despite receiving a larger budget for fiscal year 2019 – a $179-million increase over the previous year – the National Cancer Institute (NCI) plans to cut its operating expenses by 5 percent.

The agency’s budget was approved at $5.74 billion for 2019, representing the fourth largest annual increase after more than a decade of stagnation. However, NCI Director Norman “Ned” Sharpless, MD, explained to Science that various research priorities (such as the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative) and an ever-increasing number of grant applications have stretched the budget.

For example, only $79 million of the 2019 increase went to NCI’s base operating budget, while $100 million was set aside for the Moonshot Initiative.

In the past six years, Dr. Sharpless added, research proposals sent to the NCI have increased by 46 percent – faster than proposals at the National Institutes of Health overall, which only saw an 11-percent increase. He attributed this rise in part to “a very exciting time” in cancer research.

All of NCI’s grant programs and intramural laboratories – except its cancer centers, moonshot grants, and training awards – will be subject to cuts. Despite the changes, NCI plans to continue its policy of prioritizing research by early-stage investigators.

Source: Science Magazine, December 7, 2018; Joint Meeting of the NCI Board of Scientific Advisors (BSA) and the National Cancer Advisory Board, December 4, 2018.