Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., will remain as NIH director on a temporary basis into the administration of Donald J. Trump, who will be sworn in today as the nation’s 45th president.
“We learned late yesterday that Dr. Francis Collins has been held over by the Trump administration,” NIH spokeswoman Renate Myles told GEN today. “We have no additional details at this time.”
The NIH referred further questions to Trump’s transition team, which to date has not commented on who the new administration wants to see at the agency’s helm.
Dr. Collins—who previously said he remained open to remaining in his position in the new administration—was one of two people who met with Trump earlier this month in what news reports said were conversations about leading NIH.
The other person was Rep. Andy Harris, M.D. (R-MD), an obstetric anesthesiologist who was easily re-elected to a fourth term in November as Maryland’s sole Republican in Congress. Dr. Harris holds the distinction as the only member of Congress to have conducted NIH-funded research. He has urged the agency to award more research grants to younger researchers.
Also discussed as a possible NIH head in recent weeks is Patrick Soon-Shiong, M.D., the entrepreneur who heads the NantWorks umbrella of companies.
In contrast to Dr. Collins, the head of the FDA, Robert Califf, M.D., will step down from his position today at noon, the agency has said. Federal law calls for the position, when open, to be filled temporarily by the agency’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, who is Stephen Ostroff, M.D.
Potential successors to Dr. Califf who have been subjects of speculation in recent days include Jim O’Neill, managing director at Mithril Capital Management, the investment firm co-founded by Trump ally Peter Thiel; Scott Gottlieb, M.D., a former FDA deputy commissioner; and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Balaji Srinivasan, co-founder of DNA screening provider Counsyl.
Srinivasan has been a critic of FDA actions he has said hinder the adoption of innovative technologies, while O’Neill in 2014 called for “progressive” approval of new drugs after their safety has been established, but before efficacy has been proven.