The longtime Director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, announced on Tuesday that he will be stepping down from his position by the end of 2021, CNN reports.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Collins called it “an incredible privilege to lead this great agency for more than a decade.”
“I love this agency and its people so deeply that the decision to step down was a difficult one,” he added. “I am proud of all we’ve accomplished. I fundamentally believe, however, that no single person should serve in the position too long, and that it’s time to bring in a new scientist to lead the NIH into the future.” Collins gave his thanks to “the NIH staff and the scientific community, whose extraordinary commitment to lifesaving research delivers hope to the American people and the world every day.”
After serving in the position for 12 years and under three different presidents, the 71-year-old Collins will leave his post at the end of the year, although he will remain in charge of his research laboratory at the National Human Genome Research Institute.
Collins has served as Director of the NIH for longer than anyone else in the agency’s history, a factor which may have contributed to his decision. In a previous interview with the Washington Post hinting at his own retirement, Collins said that “there comes a time where an institution like NIH really benefits from new vision, [and] new leadership.”
The NIH is the largest biomedical agency in the world, with a budget of $52 billion, over 6,000 scientists employed at its headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, and spending at least $42 billion per year for medical research efforts. Included in the NIH’s wide-ranging jurisdiction is the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is run by Anthony Fauci. Other agencies run by the NIH include the National Cancer Institute, National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, among others.