Medical research will get a huge boost from the economic stimulus about to be signed into law by President Obama.

I can’t remember the House and Senate ever conferencing on a spending bill and, instead of splitting the difference between higher and lower amounts, deciding to add the competing bills together! But that’s our legislators did for disease research at the National Institutes of Health.

The House-passed bill included $3.5 billion for NIH. Thanks to an amendment by Senators Tom Harkin (D., IA), Arlen Specter (R., PA) and Dick Durbin (D., IL), the Senate voted $6.5 billion for NIH.

Then, the joint House-Senate conference on the stimulus package added the two amounts for NIH together for $10 billion, the vast majority targeted for research into Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, diabetes and other serious diseases.

From some historical context: in the five years between 1998 to 2003 Congress doubled the NIH budget. The total increase over those years was $14.2 billion, and it was historic. President Obama is about to send $10 billion into the fight against catastrophic diseases with a stroke of the pen. It is indeed a new day in Washington.