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Francis Collins’ 2020 vision for NIH

NIH Director Collins on white space science, march-in rights, foreign threats to research, and doing better on diversity

In his tenth year as NIH Director, Francis Collins is expanding the reach of marquee programs launched under his tenure, and growing the institutes’ footprint in artificial intelligence.

In a conversation with BioCentury, Collins identified his top priorities for the new year, and discussed emerging scientific areas that stand to make a big impact on drug development.

He called out single cell analysis, CRISPR and AI as technologies poised to deliver a wealth of new translational insights, and said NIH plans to invest in data collection and workforce development to support AI.

Collins also shared his views on whether NIH should flex its muscles on drug pricing, the institute’s need to guard against foreign threats to American research, and the work required to achieve representative diversity in academia.

Appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009, Collins has driven a series of major translational programs, launching in 2011 the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), in 2013 the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, in 2014 the Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP), in 2015 the All of Us Research Program -- formerly known as the Precision Medicine Initiative -- in 2016 the Cancer Moonshot, and in 2018 the Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative.

“I predict we will up our investments in AI and machine learning in 2020.”

Francis Collins, NIH

While proposing the creation of NCATS, Collins faced pushback from academics who feared the translational center would threaten basic research by hoarding already tight funds,

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