New NIH Chief Sets Priorities | August 24, 2009 Issue - Vol. 87 Issue 34 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 87 Issue 34 | p. 8 | News of The Week
Issue Date: August 24, 2009

New NIH Chief Sets Priorities

Francis Collins speaks broadly about global needs, future of funding
Department: Government & Policy
Keywords: Francis Collins, NIH, funding
Credit: NIH
Credit: NIH

Just hours after being sworn in as the 16th director of NIH on Aug. 17, Francis S. Collins sat down with a group of reporters to discuss his vision for the future of the nation’s top biomedical research agency.

High on Collins’ list of priorities is ensuring stable and sustainable funding for biomedical research when the $10.4 billion given to NIH under the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) runs out in 2011. NIH’s annual budget of about $30 billion will have to significantly increase to prevent grant “success rates from plummeting to historical lows” when the stimulus expires, Collins noted.

The challenge for Collins is to ensure that “NIH receives predictable, sustainable, and reasonable support that will enable our nation’s scientists to maintain the momentum generated by the ARRA funding,” says Mark O. Lively, president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

In the area of basic science, Collins pointed to opportunities from high-throughput technologies in fields like chemistry, nanotechnology, genomics, imaging, computational biology, and environmental science. He remarked about “their ability to collect data sets that are really quite comprehensive about how life works.”

Collins emphasized the need for more public-private collaboration in translational research to speed up the development of medical diagnostics, preventive strategies, and new drugs. He also stressed the importance of collaboration with other federal agencies, such as FDA and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, as well as the need to work globally to help developing countries manage disease.

In terms of U.S. health care reform, Collins pledged to provide decisionmakers with the evidence they need to produce better health care and to try to rein in “that scary curve of increasing health care costs.” He noted that NIH embraces comparative effectiveness research, or the assessment of the benefits of one therapy over another for treating the same medical condition. He also said he recognized the need to move personalized medicine forward.

Prior to meeting with reporters, Collins received a warm welcome to NIH at a town hall meeting for NIH employees. In general, biomedical research and public health groups strongly support Collins and are pleased that the agency now has a permanent director in place.

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