Francis Collins, the longtime director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will resign by the end of this year, the NIH announced in a news release on Tuesday, Oct. 5.
Having served three U.S. presidents over more than 12 years, Collins is the longest-serving presidentially appointed NIH director.
“It has been an incredible privilege to lead this great agency for more than a decade,” Collins said, adding that his decision to step down was a difficult one.
“I am proud of all we’ve accomplished. I fundamentally believe, however, that no single person should serve in the position too long, and that it’s time to bring in a new scientist to lead the NIH into the future,” Collins said.
Collins started overseeing the research center in 2009, appointed by President Barack Obama. In 2017, he was asked to continue in his role by President Donald Trump, and in 2021, by President Joe Biden. He is now expected to return to the National Human Genome Research Institute, a branch of the NIH, which he served as director from 1993-2008.
Biden on Tuesday praised Collins for his work, Fox News reported.
“As he returns to his lab at the National Human Genome Research Institute, we look forward to his unmatched ability to unlock the possibilities within our reach and that define the best of who we are as Americans,” Biden said.
According to Breitbart, Collins decided to step down after documents exposed that he made “untruthful” comments about U.S. federal funding of gain-of-function research at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
Just weeks before Collins’ announcement of resignation, Richard Ebright of Rutgers University accused him of making false public statements about National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) grants to the WIV, which have since been proven to fund the study of “chimeric SARS-related coronaviruses” which “could infect human cells.”
Ebright said that Collins had not told the truth when asked about this research: “assertions by the NIH Director, Francis Collins, and the NIAID Director, Anthony Fauci, that the NIH did not support gain-of-function research or potential pandemic pathogen enhancement at WIV are untruthful.”
In addition, there may be another reason for his departure decision. Collins has recently backed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision to limit COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for Americans 65 and older and other vulnerable demographics, contradicting the Biden administration, which had initially advocated for booster shots for all Americans eight months after being fully vaccinated.