President Biden nominated Monica Bertagnolli to head the National Institutes of Health and steer the federal government’s pursuit of cutting-edge medical research.
The Wall Street Journal in April first reported the White House’s pick. Monday’s nomination would end a 17-month search to find a scientist to head an agency, with a $47 billion yearly budget, that plays an important role conducting and funding disease, drug and vaccine research.
Dr. Bertagnolli, a surgeon by training, previously taught at Harvard Medical School and researched the roles that a gene mutation and inflammation have played in driving cancer growth.She now heads the National Cancer Institute, a division of the NIH.
The Senate would need to confirm Dr. Bertagnolli’s nomination. The White House didn’t give a timetable for submitting the nomination or for when she could get confirmed.
In December, Dr. Bertagnolli said she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer, but the disease had been caught early and that her prognosis was good.
“Dr. Bertagnolli is a physician scientist and a patient herself, and deeply understands the intricacies and personal impact of biomedical research,” said Ellen Sigal, founder of Friends of Cancer Research, a nonprofit that works closely with NIH.
The NIH has been without a permanent head since Dr. Francis Collins retired from the post in December 2021. The White House previously considered external candidates for the job, but at least two of them backed out.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), who chairs the healthcommittee that would first weigh Dr. Bertagnolli’s nomination, said in an interview he wanted an NIH nominee to pledge to back policies that would reduce the costs of prescription drugs, such as limits on prices of products developed with the help of NIH researchers.
Mr. Sanders didn’t say whether he would be willing to scuttle a nomination by refusing to hold a hearing but said he would oppose nominees that don’t commit to specific drug-price policies.