Francis Collins's Chances to Retain NIH Directorship Improve


Founder of Health Rising and Phoenix Rising
Staff member
NIH directors sometime continue when an administration from the same party takes over, but when a different party takes over control of the White House it's a different story. They're usually gone in a flash. This year may be an exception, though.

People with chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) should hope that it is. Because Collins is the first NIH director to show any interest in ME/CFS. He's promised more ME/CFS funding and publicly agreed that the the NIH has let people with ME/CFS down.

Carol Head of The Solve ME/CFS Initiative, Bob Miller, Brian Vastag and other advocates who have met with or communicated with Collins believe he's sincere in his support. Under Collins' direction it appears that ME/CFS funding will triple from its low of $5 million/year in 2014 to about $15 million/year in 2017. It's true that we need much more funding, but we should note that it's very rare for any disease to triple its funding over the course of a few years. Collins also directly initiated the large NIH intramural study on ME/CFS.

Despite being appointed by President Obama in 2009, Collins, reportedly a conservative Republican and a born-again Christian, may have a leg up on the job. Collins has already said he wants to continue and he's not alone. In an unusual step, top Congressional Republicans including the Senate health committee chairman and the two chairmen of the appropriations committees that oversee NIH, urged that Collins be retained.

The letter states:
“As the Director for over the past seven years, his distinguished scientific experience, effective leadership skills, and long standing relationships with Members of Congress, researchers, and advocates will service the Nation and your Administration well,”

Collins has overseen one of the few government agencies to receive bipartisan support for increased funding. He's known to be well-liked and has overseen several high-profile NIH initiatives, including recently the Precision Medicine and Brain Initiatives and the Cancer Moonshot. Praising his vision, the Boston Globe recently endorsed him as well.

In a response to the letter Collins agreed things have been going well, and that it was an exciting time at the NIH.

“That was a wonderfully flattering letter. And I do have an exceptionally good relationship with the Congress. The people who signed that letter have and many others have become big supporters on all we have to do.”

ME/CFS still has so far to go, but after over 15 years of stagnant or declining funding it's been given a breath of hope by Francis Collins. Having him step away just as funding levels begin to dramatically increase could be tragic. Getting another NIH director on board with ME/CFS - particularly a new Director learning the ropes - is not anything pleasant to contemplate. It could take years or not happen at all.

Let's hope President-elect Trump heeds the Republicans' call for Collins to stay.
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