New NIH Director, New Priorities

Francis S. Collins, physician and geneticist, has reported for duty at the National Institutes of Health as its new director .  According to the Chronicle of Higher Education he brings with him new priorities:

On Monday, he listed for his staff five goals for his tenure as director, including ensuring a “stable and predictable” supply of federal research dollars. . .

Dr. Collins also proposed placing a greater emphasis on the use of advanced technologies in fighting diseases, improving the rate of success in translating scientific discoveries into commercially available medicines and therapies, expanding the involvement of NIH experts in the Congressional debate over the future of American health coverage, and taking a bigger role in helping with international health concerns.

He also suggested that the NIH pay more attention to lowering the average age at which researchers receive their first grants, which is now around 42.

And he spoke about the need to overcome the “herd mentality” in the grants-review process that too often leads the NIH to approve a safer research proposal over a riskier alternative that has a higher likelihood of failure but a bigger payoff if it succeeds. . . .

Dr. Collins left the NIH last year and founded the BioLogos Foundation, which describes itself as seeking common ground between science and religion. Without being prompted, he said he quit the group and promised the science-faith issue “will not interfere with my judgments” as NIH director.

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