WASHINGTON — Scientists are looking to Newt Gingrich, and his influence with President-elect Donald Trump, as one reason to be optimistic about medical science under the new administration.
Gingrich has long advocated for increased National Institutes of Health funding, and he has a history with NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins.
In a phone interview Friday, Gingrich told STAT that Trump and his team are actively considering keeping Collins. He spoke about that and what else to expect from Trump.
Have you given the president-elect any advice when it comes to medical science?
I think it’s fair to say this is going to be a very science- and technology-oriented administration. Look at the meeting they had yesterday with the tech community.
The day before yesterday, I spent an hour with Elon Musk who was there talking about a variety of space things, with Steve Bannon and Steve Miller. They were very supportive of the 21st Century Cures Act, which is a significant bipartisan step in the right direction.
They’re going to be very committed to FDA reform that will probably bring more capital into pharmaceuticals and biologics and the development of science into usable products.
I think they will continue the momentum on NIH.
I think their education reforms will lead to a lot more people who come out to be involved in science and engineering and technology.
And their commitment on national security will have a pro-research component.
I know you have a history with Director Collins at NIH. Would you like to see him stay?
Absolutely. I think Collins, if he’s willing to do it, Collins would be extraordinary. I know of no one who has the breadth of knowledge of biological research that Collins has.
Do you know if President-elect Trump is open to keeping Director Collins?
I think the question is under active consideration. I can’t say more than that.
By the way, there was a letter by Alexander, Blunt, and Cole and Upton. And when you have the four top people in the House and Senate unanimously suggesting that Collins be extended, the odds are reasonably good. You can certainly say it is under very serious consideration, and the four of them supporting him is part of that.
He’s a remarkable citizen.
How would you describe how Mr. Trump thinks about science?
I think he’s omnivorous in his interest in knowledge, and so science is part of that. Not that he’s a science specialist, but that he’s interested in learning everything and he’s interested in using everything.
Look at his campaign’s use of information technology as an enormous change agent on a scale nobody had expected.
So I think you could expect, particularly being guided by guys like Mattis and John Kelly and look at somebody like Tillerson. The head of Exxon Mobil understands the impact of science on places like the breakthroughs in North Dakota, the whole rise of fracking. All these are side effects of continuous evolution of scientific and technological knowledge.
These are the kind of people who believe that knowledge is usable and improves the future and increases our options.