Dr. Maria Freire, President and Executive Director of the FNIH, Announces Plan to Step Down after Nine Years of Service

North Bethesda, MD.  July 14, 2021 – The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) announced today the decision of Dr. Maria C. Freire to step down as FNIH President and Executive Director in September 2021.  Dr. Freire has served in that role since November 2012, making her the longest-serving leader of the FNIH since its inception 25 years ago.

“We are disappointed of course by Dr. Freire’s decision to step down after nine very productive years as president and executive director; the FNIH will miss her wisdom, creativity and extraordinary leadership,” said Steven M. Paul, M.D., FNIH Chairman, and Karuna Therapeutics CEO and Chairman.  “Maria leaves the Foundation in a very strong position, having established it as a leader in advancing biomedical research worldwide. She has created a legacy of making a difference in people’s lives and leaves the Board and the FNIH staff an inspired roadmap for the future.”

Under Dr. Freire’s leadership, the FNIH has become an innovative, impactful player in the national and international ecosystem of biomedical research. Now established as a world leader in pioneering public-private partnerships (PPPs), the FNIH has served as a model for organizations and foundations widely, including in the creation of other Congressionally mandated foundations that support the mission of agencies of the US federal government. Today, the FNIH is recognized as a catalytic force for research, whose initiatives set the pace for innovation around the globe.

“Under Maria’s inspired leadership, the FNIH has been an invaluable partner in launching game-changing public-private partnerships and managing complex biomedical research programs to accelerate new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat disease and get them to patients faster,” said NIH Director, Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “She transformed the Foundation, making it an international player in forging critical partnerships, most recently in the fight against COVID-19. She will be greatly missed.”

During Dr. Freire’s tenure, the FNIH saw unprecedented growth and initiated new programs, including the trailblazing Accelerating Medicines Partnership® (AMP®) and the critically important Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) program. It has recognized the contributions of America’s scientific leaders through the Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences and Trailblazer Prize for Clinician-Scientists and championed programs that directly benefit patients. The FNIH substantially increased its revenue, attracted dedicated, world-class staff, advisors and partners and provided streamlined, cost-effective and highly productive operations.

“I leave the FNIH with a great sense of pride in its accomplishments and confidence in its future,” said Dr. Freire. “It is with this certainty that I have informed the Board of Directors and my staff that I have done what I set out to do when I joined nine years ago. It has been an honor and a privilege to work hand-in-hand with the remarkable men and women who have enabled the FNIH to make hugely impactful contributions to biomedical research, which will lead to better health for people.”

The Board of Directors has named David Wholley, currently Senior Vice President, Research Partnerships, as Interim President and Executive Director after Dr. Freire’s departure while it conducts a national search for the next president and executive director.

About the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health
The FNIH creates and manages alliances with public and private institutions in support of the mission of the NIH, the world’s premier medical research agency. The Foundation works with its partners to accelerate biomedical research and strategies against diseases and health concerns in the United States and across the globe. The FNIH organizes and administers research projects; supports education and training of new researchers; organizes educational events and symposia; and administers a series of funds supporting a wide range of health issues. Established by Congress in 1990, the FNIH is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization. For additional information about the FNIH, please visit https://fnih.org.

ACCELERATING MEDICINES PARTNERSHIP and AMP are registered service marks of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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