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Weathers It All

Francis Collins, the director of the US National Institutes of Health, tells CNBC that the agency has weathered good and bad times before.

The Trump administration — which asked Collins, an Obama appointee, to stay on — has called for cuts to the NIH budget. It proposed an 18 percent cut to the agency's budget for fiscal year 2018 and suggested that some $1.2 billion could be cut from it this year.

However, Collins notes that Congress is generally supportive of NIH and biomedical research.

"Based on the time I've been at NIH, which is now 24 years, people should not be in a place of being too panicked about the ups and downs," Collins tells CNBC. "We've had lots of ups and downs, and we ultimately seem to come through them pretty well."

CNBC notes that Collins' reaction was more "sanguine" that those of many other researchers.

For instance, Harold Varmus, a former NIH director and former National Cancer Institute director, wrote in the New York Times recently that he found the proposed cuts "concerning," even if they aren't enacted or aren't as steep because they signal a lack of respect for NIH and science.

"I'm going to use every bit of my energy and my determination and ability to try to bring smart people alongside to move this noble agenda forward for the benefit of all those people who are waiting for answers to terrible diseases," Collins adds.