Trump will keep National Institutes of Health director

Francis Collins, until now a temporary holdover from the Obama administration, will continue to serve as the National Institutes of Health director under President Trump.

Collins has broad support among Republicans who control the medical research agency’s purse strings. In fact, four key Republicans urged Trump to keep him in his role in a letter in December, writing that “his distinguished scientific experience, effective leadership skills, and long standing relationships with members of Congress, researchers, and advocates will service the nation and your administration well.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) — chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee — praised Trump’s decision on Tuesday.

{mosads}“This is good news for the country and one of President Trump’s best appointments,” Alexander said in a statement. “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. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), another lawmaker supporting Collins, also lauded the choice Tuesday. Blunt serves as the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee that funds NIH.  

But not everyone will be pleased with the announcement.

Last month, a group of about 40 House Republicans asked Trump to appoint a new NIH director who is more aligned with an anti-abortion rights agenda. They wrote that Collins has a record of supporting stem-cell research and human cloning, saying that both “degrade human dignity.”

Collins has served as NIH director since 2009 and previously led the Human Genome Project.

The NIH has received a $2 billion funding boost over the past two years, and Collins has said he hopes to see that trajectory continue. NIH oversees ambitious health projects such as the BRAIN Initiative and the Cancer Moonshot.

President Trump had proposed cutting the NIH budget by $1.2 billion for the rest of the current fiscal year, but Congress instead voted to increase it in its bipartisan deal to fund the government.

Congress bolstered funding by $2 billion over the next five months, securing $34.1 billion for the NIH — the second year in a row the agency has seen more money. In December 2015, Congress passed a spending bill approving a $2 billion boost, which was the biggest increase the agency had seen in about a dozen years. 

“I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues at NIH, HHS, the Administration, the Congress, and the broader research and patient community,” Collins said in a statement. “I am grateful for the President’s vote of confidence in my ability to continue to lead this great agency.”

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