Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announced on Tuesday that he is stepping down from his position after serving at the agency for almost three decades.
“It has been an incredible privilege to lead this great agency for more than a decade,” Collins 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," he said, adding that he is "proud of all we’ve accomplished."
Collins said, however, that he believes 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."
Collins, 71, has served as the head of NIH for over 12 years and is the agency's first director to serve under three presidents.
An unidentified NIH official told The Washington Post that the agency has not yet made a decision regarding who will replace Collins as an interim director.
President BidenJoe BidenPredictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden's first year on border policy Vilsack accuses China of breaking commitments in Trump-era trade deal MORE will nominate a new director, who will have to be confirmed by a vote in the Senate.
"Millions of people will never know Dr. Collins saved their lives," Biden said in a statement on Tuesday, calling Collins "one of the most important scientists of our time."
"Countless researchers will aspire to follow in his footsteps," Biden added. "And I will miss the counsel, expertise, and good humor of a brilliant mind and dear friend."
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Collins has encouraged Americans to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines as well as to get COVID-19 vaccines. He also pushed for booster shots to be limited to specific populations last month.
“This is the way it ought to be," Collins said at the time.
Before serving at NIH, Collins directed the National Human Genome Research Institute, overseeing the international project to map the human genome. He was awarded by President George W. Bush with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts in 2007.
— Updated at 9:58 a.m.