WASHINGTON — In a letter sent Friday, top congressional Republicans urged President-elect Donald Trump to keep Dr. Francis Collins as director of the National Institutes of Health.
Collins received the endorsement from key GOP members of Congress: outgoing House and Energy Commerce chairman Fred Upton, Senate health committee chairman Lamar Alexander, and the two chairmen of the appropriations committees that oversee NIH: Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri and Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma.
“Dr. Collins is the right person, at the right time, to continue to lead the world’s premier biomedical research agency,” they said in the letter.
Trump has made few comments on NIH, aside from a 2015 remark that he had heard “terrible” things. But many in Washington have speculated since the election that Collins could end up staying on under Trump.
The agency is in the midst of launching several major research efforts, including the Precision Medicine Initiative and Vice President Joe Biden’s cancer moonshot. Collins, who has served as director since 2009, has been instrumental to those programs.
The only other known contender for the job is Congressman Andy Harris of Maryland, a Republican who has openly lobbied for the job in the past few days. But a lobbyist who works on medical research policy told STAT on Friday that even other Republicans on the Hill might prefer to see Collins stay in the role.
The letter sent to Trump on Friday seems to confirm that.
“Dr. Collins has a scientific vision. You can agree or disagree with it, but that was his perspective as a leader,” said the lobbyist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter. “He’s worked with the [Obama] administration to come up with big initiatives to capture the imagination.”