OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
The boss of Dr. Anthony Fauci at the National Institutes of Health has announced that he is resigning from his post by the end of the year.
Dr. Francis Collins made the announcement in a press release from the NIH on Tuesday.
“It has been an incredible privilege to lead this great agency for more than a decade,” he said. “I love this agency and its people so deeply that the decision to step down was a difficult one, done in close counsel with my wife, Diane Baker, and my family. 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.”
The doctor has served three United States presidents in his career and was celebrated by Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.
“Few people could come anywhere close to achieving in a lifetime what Dr. Collins has at the helm of NIH,” he said. “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.”
The Washington Post was the first to report on the rumor of his retirement on Monday.
“There comes a time where an institution like NIH really benefits from new vision, new leadership,” it quoted him as saying. It did not say when the interview was conducted by did quote him as saying, “This was the right timing,” to retire this year.
“Known for his accessible, plain-spoken manner, Dr. 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. Dr. 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,” the press release said.
“Dr. 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, Dr. 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. He also is the architect of several strong public-private partnerships such as the Accelerating Medicines Partnership to reduce the time from the identification of biological markers of disease to the development of treatments that target those pathways,” it said.
“In concert with the Obama administration, Dr. 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 to fuel innovation and speed new treatments to reduce cancer incidence and improve patient outcomes. Under the leadership of President Trump, Dr. 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. Working with both the Trump and Biden administrations to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Collins helped launch several game-changing initiatives, including the Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) public-private partnership that developed a coordinated research strategy for prioritizing and speeding development of promising treatments and vaccines; the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostic (RADx) program to create an innovation funnel for COVID-19 testing technologies; the Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) Against COVID-19 Disparities to support partnerships in communities hardest hit by the pandemic and reduce health disparities; and the Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) Initiative(link is external) to identify why some patients don’t fully recover from the effects of COVID-19 disease and develop ways to treat these patients or even prevent long COVID altogether,” it said.