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“National Treasure”: Francis Collins Steps Down as NIH Director after 12 Years

“The Right Timing”

Collins announced his resignation today, though news reports of his pending departure emerged last night. He told The Washington Post last night that he had been thinking about stepping down since May, before concluding: “There comes a time where an institution like NIH really benefits from new vision, new leadership. This was the right timing.”

As NIH Director, Collins presided over the agency’s creation of the National Center for Advancing Translational Medicine (NCATS), with an eye to accelerating translation of basic research discoveries into new drugs, and the  retirement of nearly all chimpanzees  it owned or supported for agency-funded research.  He led NIH in launching the All of Us Research Program, which is designed to glean health and wellness data from 1 million or more Americans, but has yet to reach that enrollment goal.

During his tenure, NIH’s budget increased 38%, from $30 billion in FY 2009 to $41.3 billion in FY 2021.

“Dr. Collins has established a legacy as a tremendous advocate for the power of research to lift hope, and constantly expand the possibilities for research to provide answers to the devastation caused by disease,” stated Mary Woolley, President and CEO of Research!America. “His gift for communicating the value of research to policymakers and the public is among his many superpowers.”

Perhaps most importantly, Collins oversaw the NIH’s responses to the 2014-15 Ebola outbreak, and the COIVID-19 pandemic. Along with Anthony S. Fauci, Director of the NIH’s National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Collins emerged as a public advocate for prevention measures that have generated controversy, such as mask wearing and vaccination.