Dr. Francis Collins describes five key objectives for the agency
On his first day on the job, Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., the newly confirmed director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), held a press conference at the NIH headquarters in Bethesda, Md., to lay out his vision for the agency's future. He touched specifically on five broad areas of opportunity and noted that his overarching priority will be to ensure sustained and adequate funding for the agency.
As he begins his tenure, Collins expects to devote much of his energy to ensuring that lawmakers understand the necessity and value of greater investment in health research. "The feast and famine scenario is intensely disruptive and demoralizing to our scientific workforce," said Collins frankly, referring to the doubling of the agency's budget from 1998 through 2003 and the six years of detrimental flat and reduced funding with which it subsequently struggled.
Among his greatest concerns is the situation NIH may fall into in 2011 when the two-year American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds expire. Collins alluded to the "perfect storm" that could result if Congress fails to allocate adequate appropriations to sustain the level of new ideas and applications that the ARRA funds have already stimulated.
Confidence in stable, predictable funding for the NIH, Collins explained, will be key to achieving his goal of "reinventing, reinvigorating and empowering the research community," one of the five priority areas he mentioned. Additionally, his priorities include: the application of new opportunities from high throughput technologies such as nanotechnology, imaging and genomics; expansion of translational research and leverage of public-private partnerships; the promotion of global health initiatives; and involvement in health care reform by offering scientific guidance on issues such as comparative effectiveness research and prevention.
Collins has recruited Kathy Hudson, Ph.D., a former aide from his term as head of National Human Genome Research Institute, to serve as his chief of staff. He will also retain Raynard Kington, M.D., Ph.D., as his principal deputy director, the position Kington held before becoming acting NIH director last fall.
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