Photo: National Insitutes of Health
Dr. Francis Collins announced this week that he would be stepping down as the director of the National Institutes of Health by the end of 2021.
Collins, who was picked for the post by President Barack Obama in 2009, is the longest-serving presidentially appointed NIH director.
“It has been an incredible privilege to lead this great agency for more than a decade,” said Collins in a statement. “I am proud of all we’ve accomplished. I fundamentally believe, however, that no single person should serve in the position too long, and that it’s time to bring in a new scientist to lead the NIH into the future.”
During his time heading NIH, Collins oversaw a dramatic expansion of its budget, as well as establishing initiatives to address Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, opioid use disorder, rare diseases and the novel coronavirus.
The agency formed several major public-private partnerships, including its work with Moderna to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.
NIH during Collins’ tenure also launched the All of Us Research Program, which now includes data from more than 300,000 people – 80% of whom are members of groups underrepresented in medical research.
In addition, it sought to use new technologies to understand the neuronal networks of the brain via the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative under the Obama administration.
Along with then-Vice President Joe Biden, Collins helped jumpstart the Cancer Moonshot Initiative to accelerate the delivery of effective cancer prevention strategies, diagnostics and treatments.
As noted by STAT, Collins’ departure may raise questions about the future of the Advanced Research Project Agency for Health. Proposed as part of President Biden’s budget, ARPA-H is intended to drive transformational innovation in health research.
NIH told the Washington Post that no decision has yet been made on an interim director.
Collins directed the National Human Genome Research Institute from 1993 through 2008, where he led the international Human Genome Project.
He will continue to lead his research laboratory there, which is pursuing questions about Type 2 diabetes and Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome.
“Few people could come anywhere close to achieving in a lifetime what Dr. Collins has at the helm of NIH,” said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra in a statement.
“It takes an extraordinary person to tackle the biggest scientific challenges facing our nation – and under three presidents, amidst three distinctly different chapters of American history.
“Dr. Collins, master of scientific breakthroughs and scientific reason – from mapping the human genome to fighting the most devastating pandemic of a century – has routinely broken ground to save countless lives, while unleashing innovation to benefit humanity for generations to come,” he said.
Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.
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