The director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Francis Collins, declared his resignation on Tuesday, only weeks after being exposed to “untruthful” comments regarding the U.S funding gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
In a statement posted on the NIH website, Collins said, “It has been 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, done in close counsel with my wife, Diane Baker, and my family. 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. 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.
Just weeks before Collin’s resignation announcement, Richard Ebright of Rutgers University accused him of making false statements in public about grants from the National Institue of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which has been proven to fund the study of “chimeric SARS-related coronaviruses” which “could infect human cells.” Ebright stated that Collins had lied when asked about the research: “assertions by the NIH Director, Francis Collins, and the NIAID Director, Anthony Fauci, that the NIH did not support gain-of-function research or potential pandemic pathogen enhancement at WIV are untruthful.”
Francis Collins made history by serving the longest as NIH director and under three administrations: Obama, Trump, and Biden. Before his time at the NIH, he founded The BioLogos Foundation, with a vision of faith and science working hand in hand. In 2007 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work on the Human Genome Project by former President G.W. Bush.
Collins appeared on television during the coronavirus pandemic; he recommended school children to wear masks while he blamed the continuation of the pandemic on the unvaccinated.
“This is not a political statement or invasion of your liberties. This is a life-saving medical device. Asking kids to wear a mask is uncomfortable, but kids are pretty resilient,” Collins said in August as children were gearing up to go back to school.
“If we don’t have masks in schools, this virus will spread more widely. It will probably result in outbreaks in schools, and kids will have to go back to remote learning, which is the one thing we want to prevent,” he added.
In September, while speaking with Religion News Services, Collins advised those religious Americans who are hesitant about the coronavirus vaccine to think of it as a miraculous answer to their prayers.
“For somebody who’s a believer, this is what you could call an answer to prayer,” he said. “If we’ve all been praying to God to somehow deliver us from this terrible pandemic, and what happens is these vaccines get developed that are safe and effective, well, why wouldn’t you want to say, ‘Thank you, God’ and roll up your sleeve?”
Precisely what prompted Collin’s departure in the middle of a pandemic is unclear. As Politico noted, Collins recently supported the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision to limit booster shots for Americans 65 and older and other vulnerable demographics, which contradicted the Biden administration.
“This is the way it ought to be,” Collins said on CBS. “Science sort of playing out in a very transparent way, looking at the data coming from multiple places, our country, other countries, and trying to make the best decision for right now.”
Initially, the Biden administration recommended booster shots for all Americans eight months after being fully vaccinated; broadly, the FDA’s decision was understood by the public that science guided the agency’s decisions, not politics.