2007 Guest – Dr. Francis Collins
Program: Faith in Science, Faith in God
Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., a
physician-geneticist noted for his landmark discoveries of disease genes
and his visionary leadership of the Human Genome Project (HGP), is
director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).
As head of NHGRI, Collins has overseen the HGP, the multidisciplinary,
multi-institutional, international effort to map and sequence all of the
human DNA and then determine aspects of its function. Many consider this
project to be the most significant scientific undertaking of our time.
The ultimate goal is to improve human health.
With Collins at the helm, the HGP has attained historic milestones,
while consistently running ahead of schedule and under budget. A working
draft of the human genome sequence was announced in June 2000, and an
initial analysis was published in February 2001. In April 2003 NHGRI
celebrated the historic culmination of one of the most important
scientific projects in history: the sequencing of the human genome,
coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Watson and Crick's Nobel Prize
winning description of the DNA double helix.
Perhaps more importantly, Collins' unswerving commitment to free, rapid
access to genomic information made all data immediately available to the
worldwide scientific community without restrictions on access or use.
With these immense data sets of DNA sequence and variation in hand,
researchers around the globe are now equipped to accelerate the process
of understanding the connection between genes and disease, which Collins
envisions as a new era of individualized, prevention-oriented medicine.