Health & Fitness

Biden to nominate cancer surgeon Monica Bertagnolli to lead National Institutes of Health

Dr. Monica Bertagnolli speaks during a visit from first lady Jill Biden to the University of California San Francisco Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center in San Francisco, Oct. 7, 2022.

Jeff Chiu | AP

President Joe Biden will nominate Dr. Monica Bertagnolli, a cancer surgeon, to lead the National Institutes of Health, the White House announced Monday.

Bertagnolli is currently the director of the National Cancer Institute and is the first woman to lead the organization.

The NIH, which has a budget of about $45 billion, funds medical research across the U.S. and around the world. The agency played a pivotal role in developing the messenger RNA technology that underlies the Covid-19 vaccine made by Moderna.

Biden in a statement called Bertagnolli “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.”

The NIH has been without a Senate-confirmed director since Dr. Francis Collins, who had led the agency for more than 12 years, stepped down in December 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic. Dr. Lawrence Tabak is currently serving as acting director of the agency.

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Bertagnolli previously was a professor of cancer surgery at Harvard Medical School and a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Biden said as head of the National Cancer Institute, Bertagnolli has helped advance the White House’s cancer moonshot initiative, which aims to slash the death from the disease 50% over the next 25 years.

“Dr. Bertagnolli has spent her career pioneering scientific discovery and pushing the boundaries of what is possible to improve cancer prevention and treatment for patients, and ensuring that patients in every community have access to quality care,” Biden said.

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