NIH’s identity crisis: The pandemic and the search for a new leader leave the agency at a crossroads

Francis Collins’ popularity masked a debate raging in university labs and biotech boardrooms over whether the NIH is living up to its mission — or what its mission should be.

WASHINGTON — Under the reign of Francis Collins, the National Institutes of Health was untouchable.

From virtually the moment President Obama appointed him in 2009, prominent figures in government and science have been enchanted by Collins, the Harley-riding, guitar-playing geneticist who brought newfound attention to the nation’s medical research agency.

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