The current director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Dr. Francis Collins, will remain in the job for the time being, The Washington Post reported.
Many members of Congress would be happy to see Collins, a developer and champion of the Precision Medicine Initiative and the cancer moonshot, remain at his post under the Trump administration. He has also expressed interest in remaining in the position.
Two other candidates are reportedly being considered: Congressman Dr. Andy Harris and biotech magnate Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong.
With the passage of the 21st Century Cures bill last month, $4.8 billion in funding has been authorized for NIH, but annual appropriations will be required before NIH actually gets any money. More specifically, the bill authorizes funding for the Cancer Moonshot, Precision Medicine Initiative and BRAIN Initiative.
The Precision Medicine Initiative is a huge database project that will collect data from at least one million participants, using goodwill and feedback opportunities to attract people to the project. Although the potential benefits – opening up new opportunities in cancer genomics more quickly and creating an approach to address all diseases – are enormous, the project will rely heavily on public support to drive participation.
Such support is a lot easier to get and maintain with a well-known and well-respected leader at the helm. While Harris and Soon-Shiong may be perfectly well qualified to serve as NIH director, Collins has a 9-year track record of good relationships with Congress to drive the momentum needed to sustain projects of this magnitude.