Trump keeps Francis Collins as NIH Director

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 - NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. speak at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine
NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. speak to reporters at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine on Aug. 30.

Francis Collins, MD, PhD, will remain director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), making him one of the few appointees of President Barack Obama to stay on in the Trump administration.

“I consider it a privilege to continue to lead this noble enterprise,” Collins tweeted after the announcement.

There had been calls for President Donald Trump to replace Collins, who has served as NIH Director since 2009. A group of 40 congressmen, led by Rep. Jim Banks, R-Indiana, cited Collins’ support for embryonic stem cell research in a May letter as a reason for dismissal. He's also faced criticism for safety issues at NIH facilities under his watch, including mold being found in a NIH pharmacy and the 2015 closure of a sterile production unit. Other Republicans, however, commended Trump’s decision to retain him.

“This is good news for the country and one of President Trump’s best appointments. There’s nobody better qualified than Francis Collins to help accelerate the medical miracles that have the potential to help virtually every American family,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, said in a statement. Alexander had endorsed the idea of keeping Collins after Trump was elected.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, also applauded the move, saying in his own statement he would “look forward to working with him to ensure NIH has the resources it needs to advance progress toward new, life-saving treatments and cures.”

Resources could be the next big battle for Collins at NIH, as Trump’s proposed budget would cut its funding by 18 percent, or $5.8 billion. This would include a $1.2 billion cut for the National Cancer Institute and a $672 million reduction for the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, along with limiting with NIH grant recipients can spend on administrative costs related to their research.

The reductions may be opposed by some of the same Republicans who have supported Collins’s reappointment. When Congress passed a spending deal for the final five months of the current fiscal year, it included an extra $2 billion in funding for NIH.