Francis Collins Announces Retirement as NIH Director

October 6, 2021

Francis S. Collins, the scientist who led the Human Genome Project, has announced that he will retire from his 12-year post as leader of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at the end of 2021. Appointed in 2009 by President Barack Obama, he is NIH’s longest-serving director.

“It’s been a privilege & honor to serve as NIH Director for over 12 years,” he said on his Twitter feed. “However, I believe no person should hold this position for too long. So, with deep gratitude to this great agency & the people who carry out its mission, I’ve decided to step down.”

From 1993-2008, Collins directed the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), where he succeeded James D. Watson as leader of the international Human Genome Project. In 2003, the project finished its mapping of the human genome.

Under his NIH leadership, Collins increased the NIH budget by 38 percent, from $30 billion in 2009 to $41.3 billion in 2021.

Collins has been very active in COVID-19 research and response, including launching the  Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines public-private partnership; the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostic program to advance COVID-19 testing technologies; the Community Engagement Alliance Against COVID-19 Disparities; and the Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery Initiative to study the epidemiology of COVID.

Collins will continue his genomics research, focusing on type 2 diabetes and new genetic therapies for Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome, a disease of premature aging. — Michele G. Sullivan