Former FDA Commissioner Robert Califf and his successor Scott Gottlieb have applauded President Donald Trump’s decision to keep Francis Collins as head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), although it may be a poisoned chalice given that billions of dollars in cuts could be on the way.
Francis Collins took to Twitter last night saying he was: “Honored to be selected by @POTUS to continue as #NIH Director. I consider it a privilege to continue to lead this noble enterprise.”
He was swiftly congratulated by current FDA Commissioner Gottlieb (also Trump’s pick), who used Twitter to say: “Looking forward to continuing to partner with you @NIHDirector and through your inspired leadership pursuing public health advances together.”
Not to be left out, ex-FDA commissioner Califf, President Obama’s pick until being replaced by Gottlieb this year, added: “Bravo. A great leader at a critical time for biomedical science and human health! Made my day. @NIHDirector.”
Collins has led the 20,000-staffer strong NIH, the government’s largest biomedical research agency since 2009, but may now be facing one his toughest tenures.
Last month, Trump outlined in his “Putting America’s Health First: FY 2018 President’s Budget for HHS,” that he wants to around a 20% cut to the NIH, down to $26 billion in FY 2018 from $31 billion in 2016, a loss of around $5.8 billion.
The FDA meanwhile will be down $855 million in funding next fiscal year, but there are plans to increase FDA user fees to make up the shortfall, and more.
Structural changes are also in the works for the NIH, aimed at reducing “indirect costs and preserve more funding for direct science.” It says the NIH has been split 70-30 in terms of spending on “direct science”, with 30% being spent on “indirect costs.”
The plans also outline the administration’s desire to cut the NIH’s Fogarty International Center, but will retain all federal staff and aims to “maintain key activities in other NIH Institutes.” The changes are designed to “enable NIH to focus on higher priority activities.”
The proposed budget is also seeking to consolidate the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality into the NIH, but will hold on to its discretionary $272 million funding.
But as part of this, the NIH will be told to “conduct a review of health services research across NIH and develop a strategy to ensure the highest priority health services research is conducted and made available across the Federal Government.” The budget will also cut what is deemed “lower priority” programs.