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WASHINGTON — Almost as soon as Francis Collins announced that he’ll soon step down as director of the National Institutes of Health, lists of potential candidates began circulating through the capital.

Among the most prominent candidates singled out during conversations with current and former NIH officials and outside research advocates are a number of science heavyweights. Four of the six sources immediately named Jennifer Doudna, the biochemist best known for her Nobel prize-winning research on the gene-editing technology CRISPR.

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