Senate confirms Biden’s pick for NIH director despite Sanders’ objections | ET REALITY


The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Dr. Monica M. Bertagnolli, a cancer surgeon who currently heads the National Cancer Institute, as the next director of the National Institutes of Health, overriding objections from Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, chairman of the Health Committee. of the Senate. committee.

The vote was 62 to 36, with Sanders voting against it. in a statement last monthHe said that while Dr. Bertagnolli was an “intelligent and caring person,” he would vote against her because she “has not convinced me that she is prepared to stand up to the greed and power of the pharmaceutical companies and the drug industry.” medical attention”.

Dr. Bertagnolli will become the second woman to permanently lead the NIH, following Dr. Bernadine P. Healy, who served under President George HW Bush. She will take over an agency that has been the target of political attacks from Republicans, who have accused its scientists of intentionally downplaying the possibility that Covid-19 was the result of a lab leak.

“I think no one wants to know what the true origin of the last Covid pandemic was more than the biomedical research community,” Dr. Bertagnolli told Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, the top Republican on the health committee, during his confirmation hearing last month.

“And how will you achieve that?” asked Mr. Cassidy, who is a doctor. Dr. Bertagnolli promised that she would make any data on the topic “available, public and accountable to the American people.”

President Biden announced in May that he would nominate Dr. Bertagnolli to lead the NIH, the world’s leading medical research agency, which has an annual budget of more than $47 billion and occupies a sprawling campus in Bethesda, Maryland. director since Dr. Francis S. Collins resigned almost two years ago.

But in an unusual turn, Sanders, an independent who is part of the Democrats, delayed Dr. Bertagnolli’s confirmation hearing for months in an effort to pressure Biden to take more aggressive steps to reduce drug prices.

The stalemate finally ended in September, after the Department of Health and Human Services announced a $326 million contract with Regeneron to develop a new monoclonal antibody treatment for Covid-19. The agreement stipulated that if the drug reaches the market, its list price must be equal to or lower than the price in other major countries, a provision that caused Mr. Sanders will announce would schedule a hearing for Dr. Bertagnolli.

The hearing went well for Dr. Bertagnolli, who grew up on a ranch in southwestern Wyoming and was introduced to the committee by a Republican from that state, Senator John Barrasso. He praised her as someone who understands rural America and said she had been chatting with her neighbors.

“They talk about his courage, his resilience and his determination,” said Barrasso, who is a doctor, adding: “His commitment to the land and his livestock says a lot about his character and his courage.”

Dr. Bertagnolli is also a cancer patient. She announced at the end of last year who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. He told the committee that he had completed his treatment and that his prognosis “is excellent.”

“I also had access to exceptional care, knowing full well that not all patients have the same opportunities,” he said. “Most importantly, every treatment I received was supported by NIH-funded research.”

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