As published in the Washington Post, Duke University scientist Mary Klotman is one of the strongest contenders for the next director of the National Institutes of Health.
Klotman is a physician well known for her research on HIV. She has been serving as the dean of the Duke University School of Medicine since 2017. According to three sources who chose to be anonymous as they didn’t have authority to discuss the matter, Klotman has had a series of conversations with senior officials.
If Klotman is selected for the role, she will replace Francis S. Collins, who stepped down as NIH director last year. The Biden administration is also considering at least one more candidate for the role.
Klotman has worked as a scientist at NIH in her early career. She has also served as the president of the Association of the American Physicians. one of her colleagues at the Duke University, Robert Califf, is a Food and Drugs Authority commissioner.
The NIH has a budget of $45 billion in 2022. It disperses 80 percent of its total funding to outside researchers in academic institutions. Moreover, the organization plays a significant role in shaping the scientific workforce. It also played a crucial role in developing coronavirus vaccines and therapeutics.
NIH became a political target when it’s funding for coronavirus in China before the pandemic was highlighted by some Republicans. Senator Rand Paul argued that the pandemic might have begun with the laboratory leak. But the organization’s officials denied this argument, as the Washington Post reports.
The pandemic also highlighted the racial inequalities and disparities that exist at every level of science. It has been found that White scientists are more likely to be funded than black scientists. Moreover, the participants in clinical research that are significant for medical knowledge are overwhelmingly white. So, these are some challenges that Klotman might have to face if she becomes the director of NIH.
Klotman has praised the Biden administration for elevating science to the Cabinet-level. She was seen praising the Biden administration’s decisions in a Duke video posted in January 2021.