On Friday, August 7, the Senate unanimously confirmed the appointment of Francis Collins, MD, PhD, as the new director of the National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Collins is both a physician and an expert in genetics. He led the Human Genome Project to an early success in identifying and sequencing the 25,000 genes in the human genome and headed the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) from 1993 through 2008.
Announcing his confirmation, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, said,
Dr. Collins is one of our generation’s great scientific leaders. A physician and geneticist, Dr. Collins served as Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, where he led the Human Genome Project to completion.Dr. Collins will be an outstanding leader. Today is an exciting day for NIH and for science in this country.
His teams discovered genes responsible for a number of diseases, including adult-onset diabetes, cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease, and familial endocrine cancer syndrome. Collin’s work on the genetic basis of Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, which causes premature aging, may lead to treatment for this rare disease but will also provide important insights into normal human aging.
Dr. Collins is a longtime advocate for protecting the privacy of patients and families with inherited conditions and worked hard for the passage of legislation to prohibit insurance and employment discrimination based on genetic information.
In nominating Dr. Collins to lead the NIH, President Obama said,
The National Institutes of Health stands as a model when it comes to science and research. My administration is committed to promoting scientific integrity and pioneering scientific research and I am confident that Dr. Francis Collins will lead the NIH to achieve these goals. Dr. Collins is one of the top scientists in the world, and his groundbreaking work has changed the very ways we consider our health and examine disease. I look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead.
In 2007, Dr. Collins received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush.
Based on his interest in the relationship between science and faith, he wrote the bestselling The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, A new book, The Language of Life: DNA and the Revolution in Personalized Medicine will be published in 2010.