NIH Director Would Stay at Agency Under Trump If Asked

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By Jeannie Baumann

Dec. 9 — The head of the federal government’s medical research agency is interested in staying on under the Trump administration.

Francis S. Collins told Bloomberg BNA Dec. 9 that he would stay on as director of the National Institutes of Health if President-elect Donald Trump offered him the job. He said the Trump transition team hasn’t asked him to retain his position.

“If I were to be asked, I will tell you, I love this place, and I love the mission of this place. And I’m also somebody who really believes in public service,” Collins said in a Dec. 9 interview with Bloomberg BNA. “So if I were asked to stay, I would consider it a privilege. But there may be lots of other attractive candidates out there that they will choose instead to offer that opportunity to. It’s not my call.”

President Barack Obama tapped Collins, a geneticist who led the mapping of the human genome project, to serve as the NIH director in July 2009. The NIH director is a political appointee who serves at the pleasure of the president.

All of Obama’s appointees, including Collins, were directed to tender their resignations by Dec. 7. Collins said he plans to stay at the helm of the NIH through the end of the Obama administration. While Collins plans to keep his laboratory at the NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute, he hasn’t announced any other plans.

Collins was confirmed unanimously by the Senate in 2009, and he enjoys support from Republicans. Earlier in December, four Republican lawmakers—including the main legislators behind the 21st Century Cures bill (H.R. 34)—sent Trump a letter urging the president-elect to keep Collins as the NIH director.

“Dr. Collins is the right person, at the right time, to continue to lead the world’s premier biomedical research agency,” the letter said. The lawmakers signing the letter include Cures legislation leaders Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.). Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who are the chairmen of the appropriations panels that oversee the NIH’s budget, also signed the letter.

Under Collins’s leadership, the NIH has taken a wide range of policy and research initiatives, from starting the precision medicine study to enroll at least 1 million participants, tightening conflict-of-interest policies, halting research on chimpanzees, and restructuring the NIH’s Clinical Center after an advisory group found systemic problems.

New Hospital CEO

The Clinical Center is the NIH’s hospital. Part of the restructuring included finding a chief executive, rather than a director, to run the Clinical Center, which is the world’s largest research hospital and is situated on the NIH’s campus in Bethesda, Md.

On Dec. 9, the NIH said retired Maj. Gen. James K. Gilman will be the first-ever CEO of the Clinical Center.

According to his bio, Gilman spent 35 years in the Army, leading hospitals in Houston, Washington and Alaska. He retired as the commanding general of the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, which according to its website is responsible for medical research, development, and acquisition and medical logistics management.

Gilman is expected to start in early January.

John Gallin, the current director of the Clinical Center, will stay on as the hospital’s associate director for clinical research and chief scientific officer.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeannie Baumann in Washington at jbaumann@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Brian Broderick at bbroderick@bna.com

For More Information

The Republican lawmakers’ letter to Trump is available at http://src.bna.com/kFc.

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