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The NIH Director

Remarks of NIH Director Francis Collins

September 30th, 2009

Good morning. Thank you all for being here today.

On behalf of all 19,000 NIH employees, I'd like to welcome President Obama, whom you'll hear from in just a moment. We're very grateful to have a President who values science, respects its independence, and understands its huge potential for improving Americans' lives. And we're honored to have him here today.

I'd also like to express a warm welcome to my boss, Secretary Sebelius. As scientists, most of us expect to spend a lifetime mastering one subject area. Secretary Sebelius has had to become an expert on everything from food safety to vaccine production to health care reimbursement in 5 months. And she's done an incredible job - especially on the H1N1 flu program, where she's been a great leader for this department and this country. I'm honored to be part of her team.

I would also like to recognize the presence of three other distinguished guests: John Holdren, the White House Science Advisor; Congressman Chris van Hollen of Maryland's 8th district (which includes NIH); and Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, whose tireless efforts in support of medical research were critical to making today's celebration possible.

We are here today to celebrate an important milestone. By the end of the month, the NIH will have awarded more than 12,000 Recovery Act grants totaling 5 billion dollars. More than 1800 of the awardees have never previously held a major NIH grant. These grants will fund trailblazing research into treating and preventing many of our most harmful diseases, from cancer to heart disease to HIV/AIDS.

Over the last six weeks, I've reviewed hundreds of these grant summaries myself. And they propose some of the most innovative and creative directions for research that I have ever seen. You see, this unprecedented NIH Recovery and Discovery program is not just doubling the recipe. We're investigating new problems with powerful new tools and looking at old problems from entirely new perspectives.

We can't entirely know where this research will lead. That's the nature of science. But I am confident that millions of Americans alive today and millions more in future generations will live longer, healthier, more rewarding lives because of the grants we are announcing today.

Of course, supporting the best groundbreaking research is not as simple as giving away money. None of this would have been possible without the hard work of thousands of dedicated NIH employees. They identified areas of special scientific opportunity. They designed entirely new grant programs like the Challenge Grants and Grand Opportunity Grants. They wrote RFAs in record time. And the response was overwhelming. As just one example, we expected to receive about 5000 Challenge Grant applications -- we received more than 20,000. But the NIH scientific staff was exhilarated, not dismayed. They recruited 15,000 reviewers, and instructed them to aim high in identifying the most innovative proposals. They counseled anxious applicants. And once the rigorous reviews were completed, NIH staff processed the awards in record time.

Today, I want to give a big shout out to all of you who contributed to this unprecedented success. You worked 24/7, giving up your weekends, postponing vacations, all in the cause of great science. I thank you and your tireless leader Larry Tabak for all your hard work. Give yourselves a round of applause!

But this is a beginning, not an end. As we continue to forge ahead into new frontiers of biomedical research, we are grateful to have the support of a President who is as excited about the potential of this work as we are. President Obama began his administration by making a strong commitment to "listening to scientists." This is not just because he didn't want to hurt our feelings. It's because he sees great opportunities to use science to improve lives, whether it's creating new medicines, developing better prevention strategies, or devising smarter policies to do everything from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to building a more effective health care system. Speaking for the tens of thousands of NIH scientists and grantees around the country, I can tell you, Mr. President, that we're ready to help.

It is now my great personal privilege and honor to introduce our Scientist-in-Chief, President Barack Obama.


More Information

Continue Reading: Remarks by the President on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, September 30, 2009

Watch the Videocast: President Obama's Visit to NIH—Recovery To Discovery, September 30, 2009

This page last reviewed on February 14, 2011

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