Francis Collins, the longtime head of the NIH, to step down by the year’s end

National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins is set to announce his resignation Tuesday after 12 years in the role, Politico first reported.

Why it matters: The 71-year-old pioneering physician-geneticist is the only presidentially appointed NIH director to serve in more than one administration. Collins has served longer than anyone else in the role and has been at the forefront of the U.S. COVID-19 pandemic response.

Driving the news: Collins told the Washington Post on Monday he reached the decision to retire by the end of the year after going on a retreat alone in May.

He realized he didn’t wanted to get too far into the Biden administration. Collins concluded that the NIH was in “a pretty stable place” in its pandemic response, with vaccines and other tools.

What else he’s saying: “There comes a time where an institution like NIH really benefits from new vision, new leadership,” Collins told WashPost. “This was the right timing.”

Reflecting on stepping down during a time when science has been politicized, Collins noted: “Every issue, the polarization gets deeper and deeper, the tribes have formed their views and it’s very hard to see how we step back from that.”

The big picture: Under the Obama-appointed Collins’ tenure, the NIH budget has increased from $30 billion to $41.3 billion amid steady support from Congress, WashPost notes.

He’s spent nearly three decades with the NIH, and has made landmark discoveries of disease genes and previously served as director of the agency’s National Human Genome Research Institute until 2008.Collins has also led the international Human Genome Project, which culminated in April 2003 with the completion of a finished sequence of the human DNA instruction book, per the NIH.Representatives for the NIH did not immediately respond to Axios’ request for comment.

Go deeper: “Axios on HBO” interviews Collins

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