The director of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), Dr. Francis Collins, said he will step down at the end of the year, ending a career in which he led critical human studies. Genomics and the fight against serious diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and COVID-19.
Collins said he is “grateful and proud of the staff of the National Institutes of Health and the scientific community, whose exceptional dedication to lifesaving studies brings hope to the American people and the world every day.” He said the decision to step down at the end of the year was “difficult”.
“I fundamentally believe, however, that no one should serve in the position for long, and it is time for a new scientist to lead the NIH into the future,” Collins said in a statement.
Collins served as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute from 1993 to 2008, and led the International Human Genome Project initiative, which in 2003 completed sequencing of the human DNA instruction book.
Collins was appointed to the position at the National Institutes of Health in 2009 by then-President Barack Obama and his successors Donald Trump and Joe Biden, asking him to continue his work.
Biden described Collins as “one of the greatest scientists of our time.” After his son Beau died of cancer at the age of 46 in 2015, then-Vice President Biden agreed to Obama’s request to launch an effort to spur innovation and accelerate new treatments.
“I went to Dr. Collins to help lead the effort to eradicate cancer,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House. “No one could trust him more.”
Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, and under the Department of Health, the National Institutes of Health is the nation’s leading medical research agency, operating more than twenty institutes and centers. The Foundation claims to be the world’s largest promoter of biomedical research.
Health Minister Xavier Becerra praised Collins as a “master of scientific achievement”.
“Few people in their lifetime can come close to what Dr. Collins has accomplished at the helm of the National Institutes of Health,” Becerra said in a statement. “It takes someone special to take on the great scientific challenges facing our country — and under the leadership of three presidents, in three different chapters of American history.”
The National Institutes of Health said Collins will continue to lead his lab at the National Institute for Human Genome Studies.
Aside from his acclaimed work at the National Institutes of Health, Collins is best known for writing on religion and science and reconciling the two. Last year, he received one of the world’s top religious awards, the Templeton Prize, for his discussion of how faith can motivate scientific studies.
“Beeraholic. Friend of animals everywhere. Evil web scholar. Zombie maven.”