WASHINGTON — A trio of congressional Republicans wants to know why a committee tasked with oversight of the National Institutes of Health hasn’t met since 2015.
In a letter sent Thursday, the lawmakers pressed NIH leadership for answers about the mysterious disappearance of the Scientific Management Review Board, a committee that Congress empaneled in 2006 to ensure the agency was operating efficiently.
The scrutiny follows a recent STAT report about the committee disbanding, and broader questions about the agency’s future following the 2021 departure of longtime director Francis Collins.
“According to a STAT review of agency records, the SMRB, tasked with making the NIH more efficient and more effective, ‘mysteriously stopped meeting seven years ago’ and SMRB members do not know why,” the letter states.
The letter was signed by three top Republicans on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee: Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wa.), Morgan Griffith (Va.), and Brett Guthrie (Ky.). If the GOP regains a majority in the House in November’s midterm elections, McMorris Rodgers would likely become chair of the committee.
While the NIH committee met regularly in its first years of existence, it stopped meeting in 2015, sparking at least one member to accuse Collins of resisting feedback.
“There wasn’t any notification that we weren’t going to meet again — it was just that the meetings stopped getting called,” Nancy Andrews, a onetime board member and the former dean of the Duke University School of Medicine, told STAT in May.
She added: “I had the sense that we were asking questions in areas that they didn’t really want to get into, and I suppose Francis in particular didn’t really want us working on.”