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WASHINGTON — Francis Collins’ announcement last week that he will soon step down as National Institutes of Health director could complicate the Biden administration’s plans to launch ARPA-H, arguably the largest initiative the agency has undertaken in decades.

Collins, who has led NIH since 2009, is set to depart by the end of the year, leaving the White House just months to find a new leader for the $41 billion science agency. Beyond leaving the larger research office in flux, however, Collins’ retirement adds uncertainty to the process surrounding ARPA-H, a proposed $6.5 billion agency aimed at, in President Biden’s words, tackling major diseases like Alzheimer’s and diabetes and “ending cancer as we know it.”

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