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Francis Collins

WASHINGTON — Dr. Francis S. Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, holed up in an Airbnb in the countryside in May to ponder leaving the job he had held for more than a decade, over three presidencies.

“I spent a long weekend thinking about this and mapping out timetables and pros and cons,” he said. He prayed over it.

On Tuesday he announced his decision: He would step down by the end of the year.

Dr. Collins’s replacement, once nominated by President Biden, will have to be confirmed in an evenly divided Senate. A division of the Department of Health and Human Services, the N.I.H. describes itself as the largest biomedical research agency in the world. In a statement on Tuesday, Mr. Biden called Dr. Collins “one of the most important scientists of our time.”

“After I was elected president, Dr. Collins was one of the first people I asked to stay in his role with the nation facing one of the worst public health crises in our history,” Mr. Biden said. “Millions of people will never... see more