NIH director to step down by end of the year

 National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins holds up a model of the coronavirus as he testifies before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee looking into the budget estimates for National Institute of Health (NIH) and the state of medical research on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger-Pool/Getty Images)

National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins holds up a model of the coronavirus as he testifies before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee looking into the budget estimates for National Institute of Health (NIH) and the state of medical research on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger-Pool/Getty Images)

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UPDATED 1:37 PM PT – Tuesday, October 5, 2021

The Director of the National Institute of Health, Francis Collins, has resigned after 12 years in the position. On Tuesday, the 71-year-old said he made the decision with the belief that “no single person should serve in a position for too long” and added it was time a new individual led the agency.

However, a resignation in the middle of a pandemic has critics questioning the director’s timing. Just week before the announcement, molecular biologist Richard Ebright of Rutgers University accused Collins of lying to the public about grants to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. As director, Collins has overseen the world’s largest biomedical agency with a budget of nearly $52 billion.

Ebright referred to 900 pages of previously undisclosed documents from the NIH, which were obtained through a freedom of information act lawsuit. According to the professor, those documents showed the 2014 and 2019 NIH grants to EcoHealth, with subcontracts to the Wuhan Institute, funded gain of function research.

Funding was used to construct new coronaviruses that could infect animals and humans as well as only be made in a lab. Ebright contended records clearly showed the NIH sponsored such research at the Wuhan lab with $600,000 spent to support it.

Director Collins and Dr. Anthony Fauci initially denied the NIH funding, despite of this evidence. However, Fauci later had to admit to funding the research as the funding came to light.

“About whether or not people were getting infected with bad viruses,” he explained. “So in a very minor collaboration as part of a sub-contract as part of a grant, we had a collaboration with some Chinese scientists.”

While the health agency has yet to announced an interim director, it would ultimately be up to the Biden administration to pick the agency’s new permanent head.

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