Francis Collins, who has headed up the National Institutes of Health for 12 years, announced on Tuesday that he is stepping down by the end of the year.
“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 said in a statement.
“I’m most grateful and proud of the NIH staff and the scientific community, whose extraordinary commitment to lifesaving research delivers hope to the American people and the world every day,” added Collins, who has become one of the government’s leading voices on the COVID pandemic.
Collins, 71, took over the agency in 2009 during the Obama administration and was asked to remain in the post by Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
The president called Collins “one of the most important scientists of our time.”
“Millions of people will never know Dr. Collins saved their lives. Countless researchers will aspire to follow in his footsteps. And I will miss the counsel, expertise, and good humor of a brilliant mind and dear friend,” Biden said in a statement.
Before taking over the reins at NIH, which is based in Bethesda, Md., the physician-geneticist was the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute from 1993 to 2008.
While there, he led the international Human Genome Project, which in April 2003 completed a finished sequence of the human DNA instruction book.
Former President George W. Bush presented him the Presidential Medal of Freedom for the accomplishment.
Collins will return to the National Human Genome Research Institute.