If confirmed, Bertagnolli would be only the second woman to lead the science agency as permanent director since the position was created in 1887. Bloomberg News earlier reported that Biden would announce the nomination as soon as Monday morning.
“Dr. Bertagnolli is a world-class physician-scientist whose vision and leadership will ensure NIH continues to be an engine of innovation to improve the health of the American people,” Biden said in a statement.
The NIH has gone nearly a year and a half without a permanent director. Lawrence Tabak has been performing the duties of the NIH director since December 2021, when he took over from Francis Collins, who served as agency director for more than a decade. Tabak will continue performing the duties of NIH director until the position is confirmed by the US Senate.
Any nominee will need confirmation by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which hasn’t convened an NIH confirmation hearing in more than two decades. Bertagnolli, 64, is the first woman to lead the NCI, a position she’s held since October.
Biden still has top roles to fill at the Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said this month that she plans to step down at the end of June. Anthony Fauci, former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, left that role last year after nearly four decades as the government’s top infectious disease expert.
Bertagnolli is a physician-scientist who spent nearly a quarter century at the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston before joining the NCI last year. She said in December that she had been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer and the prognosis was “very favorable.”
“Dr. Bertagnolli will be a visionary leader at a critical time for innovation at the NIH,” said Ellen Sigal, chairwoman and founder of Friends of Cancer Research. “As a physician scientist and a patient herself, she understands the intricacies and personal impact of biomedical research.”