President Trump asks Francis Collins to stay on at the NIH, sparking bipartisan applause

The Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center. NIH File Photo

Francis Collins

President Donald Trump may want to slash the budget at the NIH, but he also wants Francis S. Collins to stay on as its director.

Collins, a deeply respected scientist who helped lead the charge in mapping the human genome, was initially asked to stay on at least temporarily after Trump took office. But now the administration wants to make that official.

Trump won’t find much opposition to that decision. Collins has also built a considerable amount of support for the NIH budget in Congress, which he’ll need to fight off an attempt by the Trump administration to slash $5.8 billion in spending next year.

Lawmakers, though, didn’t just reject an attempt to cut the NIH’s budget for 2017. They added $2 billion more. And after 8 years at the top, Collins enjoys support from both sides of the aisle, which was highlighted on Twitter last night.

The bulk of the NIH’s budget goes to support researchers whose work forms the foundation that supports clinical stage drug development. Their 20,000 staffers also include a large number of top investigators. It’s been said that if the Trump administration does take the ax to the NIH budget, the primary victims will be all the new researchers looking for their first grants.

With Collins staying on, the likelihood of that happening dropped considerably.

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