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June 27, 2019
Statement on the retirement of Dr. Paul Sieving
It is with deep appreciation and many congratulations that I announce that, after nearly 20 years of bold leadership and achievement as National Eye Institute (NEI) Director, Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., will retire from the NIH on July 29, 2019, to launch and direct a new Center for Ocular Regenerative Therapy at the University of California, Davis. I want to take this opportunity to thank Paul sincerely for his record of service and scientific excellence at the NIH.
Paul and I were colleagues 30 years ago at the University of Michigan, and I was delighted when, based on his record of scientific accomplishment, he was selected to take the reins at NEI in June 2001.
At the NIH, Paul proved himself to be the consummate physician-scientist-administrator who strengthened and led an outstanding research program to advance vision health. His expertise, however, doesn’t end with ophthalmology. Although one of the most modest leaders around, Paul is truly a renaissance man, well versed in history, physics, and the full spectrum of medical research, including basic science, clinical research, and bioengineering.
His scientific accomplishments are internationally recognized. His NIH lab developed the biological understanding of X-Linked Retinoschisis, a human condition leading to retinal degeneration, and then initiated the first ever human gene therapy trial for this condition in 2015 at the NIH Clinical Center. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and the German National Academy of Sciences. Paul’s own deeply felt commitment to excellence in science continues to advance vision science and expand our understanding of a long list of conditions affecting human sight.
At NEI, Paul established major clinical programs aimed at preventing and treating eye disease. I have every confidence that these programs will continue to yield great benefits for millions of Americans at risk for vision loss. Paul also established a long record of professional mentoring, helping to grow and enrich vision science through teaching and sponsorship of trainees.
As NEI director, he promoted a new strategic focus for the agency, the Audacious Goals Initiative (AGI), which will stand as a significant part of his legacy here. By charting a course for interdisciplinary research and focusing on innovation, Paul used the inspiring model of the AGI to elevate NEI to a world-class example of what publicly funded, cutting-edge scientific research can achieve. AGI covers a broad range of program goals, from the development of models for neural regeneration to translational research, development of tools and technologies, and much more. To execute his vision, Paul and NEI’s scientific staff built an outstanding program — establishment of a prize, sponsorship of scientific forums, and the all-important enlistment of a world-class steering committee.
I am also grateful to Paul for his leadership in several trans-NIH activities, including his role as a member of several high-profile search committees, co-chair of the Facilities Working Group of the NIH Office of Intramural Research, and other scientific, administrative, and management efforts. I am particularly grateful to him for his work as co-chair of our trans-NIH Nanotechnology and Nanomedicine working groups.
It has been a privilege to work with such an accomplished scientist, administrator, clinician, and trusted colleague. All of us at NIH owe Paul a profound debt of gratitude for his guidance, support, dedication, and advocacy for vision science on behalf of the American public.
Following Paul’s departure, and while we conduct a national search for a new NEI director, I have asked Santa Tumminia, Ph.D., to serve as the acting director of NEI. Currently, Dr. Tumminia serves as the NEI Deputy Director. I appreciate her willingness to lead NEI during this period of transition.
Please join me in thanking Paul for everything he has done for NIH and biomedical research, and in wishing him the very best as he sets out on a new adventure in the next stage of his resoundingly successful career.
Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, National Institutes of Health