Francis Collins gets a reprieve, held over as NIH chief under Trump — for now

Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health – CQ Roll Call Getty

Today was supposed to be Francis Collins’ last day as head of the NIH. Instead, he’s staying on, “held over” as the incoming Trump administration makes up its mind on how it wants to manage the nation’s investment in new therapeutic research.

“We can confirm that Dr. Collins has been held over by the Trump administration,” a spokesperson told Endpoints News via email. “We have no additional details at this time.  Any questions should be directed to the Trump transition team.”

Collins has been a popular NIH chief, earning kudos for his scientific expertise and the management of the NIH’s annual budget of $31 billion. Congress recently upped the amount the NIH will get as part of the 21st Century Cures Act, a sign of the respect Collins has earned in Washington DC.

Just what “held over” means, though, is anyone’s guess. Nature recently reported that biotech exec Patrick Soon-Shiong was one of several new candidates being considered for the NIH job. He and Trump reportedly met a day before Collins and Representative Andy Harris (a Republican from Maryland) had a chance to sit down with the president-elect.

Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th President of the United States today, giving him ample time to ponder the situation as he gets his Cabinet in order.

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