James Wyngaarden on Government Funding of Science
  James Wyngaarden     Biography    
Recorded: 18 Aug 2003

You see, in the political system I cannot go to the Congress and ask for things once the budget is prepared. So we prepared a budget and it goes through the Office of Management and Budget, it goes through the White House before it goes to Congress. Once that president signs off on that, I can only ask for the things that the President has asked for. I cannot add anything of my own initiative. On the other hand if Congress asks the question, it depends how they ask it. If they ask how much more money I would like, I would say we’re not asking for additional money, the President’s budget adequately provides for our needs. On the other hand if they say, Dr., how much money would it cost if the five hundred more research project grants at your average cost—well, that’s a question I can take a number multiply by a number and give them the dollars. This year the chairman asked what we would do with, I think it was seven billion dollars extra in one billion dollar increments, something like that, or in one hundred million dollar increments. This is at the end of the budget hearings. The chairman Natcher asks me, “what would you do with,” actually [it] was with seven hundred million additional dollars, and is given in the budget in one hundred million dollar increments, so seven additional tranches. There were a number of things that we would have normally liked to have in the budget. So I think in the first hundred million or two of these, I asked for additional money for research project grants, clinical trials. And I was frankly doing that in part to satisfy the critics within the NIH. When we got past the point where if we got that much money that they would have some of their pet projects funded, then I asked for initially fifty million. It actually was then pared down to about thirty million dollars for the human genome project. And after the House and the Senate voted on this and harmonized their differences, I think we got twenty six or something like that. Twenty-six, twenty-seven, and then there was a Graham/Rudman so we ended up with somewhere around twenty-three, twenty-four million dollars, but at least we were started.

James B. Wyngaarden is a medical doctor, biochemist and medical science advisor. He served as director of the National Institutes of Health, associate director for Life Sciences in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President, and as director of the Human Genome Organization. Wyngaarden is currently part of the Washington Advisory Group, LLC and director of four biotechnology/pharmaceutical companies. Wyngaarden is also co-author of the textbook The Metabolic Basis of Inherited Disease.

He researches the regulation of purine biosynthesis, the production of uric acid and he helped initiate the use of allopurinol, a drug developed as an anticancer agent and now used as a treatment for gout. While serving as director of the National Institutes of Heath, he enlisted the help of Dr. Watson in 1988 to begin the Human Genome Project. Jim obliged and joined the NIH as the associate director for Human Genome Research, while still acting as director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.