Jun 6, 2022 - Health

NIH's culture needs a harder look, policy experts say

The entrance to the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland.

Photo: Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The CDC and FDA have caught plenty of flak for bureaucratic and cultural issues that slowed America's pandemic response, but the National Institutes of Health needs a critical look, too, health policy experts write in The Atlantic.

What they're saying: "America's research enterprise has become sclerotic, cautious, focused on doing what it has always done and withdrawing from clinical research," according to the piece co-authored by Ezekiel Emanuel, vice provost of the University of Pennsylvania who served on then-President-elect Biden's COVID-19 task force.

  • "The American public is paying for this decline in ambition," he wrote with Cary P. Gross, director of COPPER Center for cancer research at the Yale School of Medicine.

The big picture: An internal CDC review last month found deep concerns about that agency's culture and responsiveness to public health threats. The FDA was also criticized for moving too slowly in approving booster shots.

  • They pointed to the recent Infectious Diseases Society of America guidelines for treating hospitalized COVID patients which cite more than 40 published clinical trials — few generated by the NIH.
  • "Amid the biggest health crisis in 100 years, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the $42-billion-a-year engine of our nation's biomedical-research infrastructure, has been strangely quiet," they wrote.
Go deeper