Collins to step down as director of NIH

Oct. 6, 2021

Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, announced his decision to end his tenure as the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by the end of the year.

Collins is the longest serving presidentially appointed NIH director, having served three U.S. presidents over more than 12 years.

"It has been an incredible privilege to lead this great agency for more than a decade," said Collins. "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. I'm most grateful and proud of the NIH staff and the scientific community, whose extraordinary commitment to lifesaving research delivers hope to the American people and the world every day."

A physician-geneticist, Collins took office as the 16th NIH director on August 17, 2009, after being appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. In 2017, he was asked to continue in his role by President Donald Trump, and in 2021, by President Joe Biden.

Prior to becoming the NIH director, Collins served as the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) from 1993-2008, where he led the international Human Genome Project, which culminated in April 2003 with the completion of a finished sequence of the human DNA instruction book.

Known for his accessible, plain-spoken manner, Collins garnered broad bipartisan Congressional support for NIH research. During his 12-year leadership, NIH's budget grew by 38%, from $30 billion in 2009 to $41.3 billion in 2021. Collins proposed and established bold initiatives — extending from fundamental basic science to translational science to focused projects — to tackle some of the most pressing health issues facing Americans, including Alzheimer's disease, cancer, opioid use disorder, rare diseases and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Collins long envisioned that knowledge gained from the mapping of the human genome would be used to develop treatments tailored to every person's unique genetics, environment and lifestyle. To spur research in the emergent area of precision medicine, Collins launched the All of Us Research Program, which is well on its way to enrolling one million people across the U.S. to provide their health data so that researchers can improve the way we prevent illness as well as treat the full spectrum of diseases and conditions.

In concert with the Obama administration, Collins launched the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, a multi-billion-dollar effort to develop sophisticated technologies to understand the neuronal networks of the brain and what goes wrong to cause Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, psychosis and other serious brain diseases. He worked closely with then Vice President Biden to launch the Cancer Moonshot Initiative.

Under the leadership of President Trump, Collins launched and galvanized the research and addiction communities around the HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative to address the national opioid crisis by improving treatments for opioid misuse and addiction and enhancing pain management.

Collins will continue to lead his research laboratory, which is pursuing genomics, epigenomics and single cell biology to understand the causes and means of prevention for type 2 diabetes. His lab also seeks to develop new genetic therapies for the most dramatic form of premature aging, Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome.

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