NIH Nominee Dr. Monica Bertagnolli Appears Before Senate HELP Committee

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee held a hearing on Oct. 18, 2023, to consider the nomination of Monica M. Bertagnolli, MD, for National Institutes of Health director. Dr. Bertagnolli, who currently directs the National Cancer Institute (NCI), was nominated by the Biden administration earlier this year in May.

Dr. Bertagnolli joined the NCI from Harvard Medical School, where she served as the Richard E. Wilson Professor of Surgery in  surgical oncology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She was also a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a member of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment and Sarcoma Centers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, also in Boston.

Her experience as a physician-scientist inspired Dr. Bertagnolli to become an advocate for increasing the diversity of patients in clinical trials, which was evident in her remarks to the Senate HELP Committee. In addition to questions on drug pricing from Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-Vt), chair of the committee. Dr. Bertagnolli faced questions from committee Republicans on the origins of the COVID-19 virus, fetal tissue research, and the NIH’s research to support gender-affirming surgery and care in youth.

Sen.  Sanders  had refused to convene a hearing to consider Dr. Bertagnolli’s nomination until the Biden administration agreed to his demands to address prescription drug prices. He agreed to hold the hearing only after the administration announced that, if biotech company Regeneron (which recently signed a multi-million dollar contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) develops the COVID-19 monoclonal antibody therapy, prices would be equal to or lower than those in other major countries.

Last Reviewed: October 2023