Trump Decision to Keep NIH's Collins Bodes Well for Agency Funding

Thursday, June 8, 2017

President Donald Trump's decision to retain Francis S. Collins as NIH director may help protect the agency from looming cuts to medical research funding, research advocates told Bloomberg BNA.

The White House announced late June 6 that Collins officially will remain at the helm of the National Institutes of Health, a position he has held since the Senate confirmed him unanimously in 2009.

“It would be difficult to underestimate the significance of this,” Ellie Dehoney, vice president of policy and advocacy for Research!America, told Bloomberg BNA on June 7. “I don't just mean for patients and for the research community. Because of the confidence in Dr. Collins—and the increased probability because of this that there will be increased funding for NIH—I think it says a lot about things like our fiscal future because of skyrocketing health-care costs.”

Collins served as NIH director for nearly the entire Obama administration and was held over by the Trump administration in January. He appears to have passed a trial period as one of the few Obama appointees who will keep his job.

“The previous thing was day-to-day, and this is not,” Lizbet Boroughs, president of United for Medical Research, told Bloomberg BNA on June 7. “It makes an enormous difference.” The continuity of Collins's leadership “will definitely send a signal that the United States continues to be a leader in biomedical research,” she added.

Dehoney of Research!America said she doesn't expect Trump's decision to impact Collins's leadership style. “Dr. Collins is a very conscientious leader so I don't think he treated his decision-making any differently,” she said. “He's going to continue to be an extraordinary leader.”

“We cannot expect Dr. Collins not to honor his leader's wishes, and so that would be shortsighted of us,” Dehoney said. “But he can certainly be asked what the funding needs are.”

Boroughs said: “In the past two or three years, he has done a tremendous job of making sure that elected officials come out to NIH and see the great things NIH is doing.”

“He's also done a lot more to reach out to patient groups than previous NIH directors have,” Boroughs said.

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