National Human Genome Research Institute
National Institutes of Health
Francis Collins is a physician-geneticist who in his role at NIH oversees a complex multidisciplinary project aimed at mapping and sequencing all of the human DNA and determining aspects of its function. The completed sequence is anticipated in spring 2003 and promises to have profound implications for medical and drug research. From the project's outset, all data has been made publicly available without restriction.
While at Yale on a fellowship in human genetics, and later as faculty at the University of Michigan, Dr. Collins worked on methods of crossing large stretches of DNA to identify disease genes. That gene-hunting approach, which he named "positional cloning," has become a powerful component of modern molecular genetics because it enables scientists to identify disease genes without knowing in advance what the functional abnormality underlying the disease might be. Dr. Collins' team, together with collaborators, successfully applied this approach to identify genes for cystic fibrosis and Huntington's disease, among others.
In addition to overseeing the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium, Dr. Collins founded an NIH intramural program in genome research, which has become a premier research unit in human genetics. His own laboratory explores the molecular genetics of breast cancer, prostate cancer, adult-onset diabetes, and other disorders. He is known as a strong advocate for protecting the privacy of genetic information and has served as a national leader in efforts to prohibit gene-based insurance discrimination.
His accomplishments have garnered many honors, including the Mendel Medal, the Biotechnology 2001 Heritage Award, and the Gairdner International Award. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.
Dr. Collins holds a B.S. from the University of Virginia, a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Yale, and an M.D. from the University of North Carolina.