National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins is stepping down by year’s end

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Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), holds a model of Covid-19 while speaking during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, July 2, 2020.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Bloomberg | Getty Images

National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins – who has helmed the agency for 12 years and became a crucial source for information on the Covid-19 pandemic – said Tuesday he is stepping down by the end of the year.

“It has been an incredible privilege to lead this great agency for more than a decade,” Collins, 71, said in a statement. “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.”

Collins is the 16th NIH director, appointed by former President Barack Obama in 2009. He was asked to continue in his role by former President Donald Trump, and in 2021, by President Joe Biden. He is the first presidentially appointed NIH director to serve in more than one administration.

In an interview with the Washington Post published late Monday, Collins said he had been contemplating whether to step down in May and eventually concluded that this year was the best time to do it.

“There comes a time where an institution like NIH really benefits from new vision, new leadership,” he told the Post. “This was the right timing.”

Prior to becoming the NIH director, Collins served as the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute from 1993 to 2008, leading the international project to map the human genome.

During the pandemic, Collins, along with National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, became fierce advocates for people to wear masks and get vaccinated.

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