WASHINGTON, DC -- Anticipating covering the Rally for Medical Research scheduled Monday from 11 am to 12:15 pm during the American Association for Cancer Research's Annual Meeting here, one of my first prepared questions was regarding whether having NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, as a featured speaker constituted a potential conflict of interest, either real or perceived.
After all, the Rally was conceived as a "unified call to action to raise awareness about the critical need for an increased investment in the National Institutes of Health to improve health, spur more progress, inspire more hope and save more lives," according to announcements by AACR, which orginated the idea of partnering with other organizations and institutions involved in medical research.
So how could the head of the NIH be part of an event that could conceivably be perceived as a lobbying effort?
Well, the point is now moot since a little while ago I learned from an AACR official that Collins would not be participating because of a "conflict."
I followed up with a call to NIH spokesperson John Burklow, who said, "Dr. Collins won't be able to attend the rally on Monday. He commends the organizers on their efforts to spotlight the importance of biomedical research."