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Urologic Diseases Research Updates
Spring 2010

Collins Takes Helm at the National Institutes of Health

Photograph of Francis S. Collins, Ph.D., M.D., director of the National Institutes of Health.

On August 17, Francis S. Collins, Ph.D., M.D., officially became the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Nominated by President Barack Obama and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he is the 16th NIH director.

"I am truly honored and humbled to take the helm today of the world's leading organization supporting biomedical research," Collins said. "The scientific opportunities in both the basic and clinical realms are unprecedented, and the talent and dedication of the grantees and the staff guarantee that this will be a truly exciting era."

Dr. Collins, 59, a physician-geneticist noted for his landmark discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the Human Genome Project, served as director of the NIH's National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) from 1993 to 2008. Under his direction, the Human Genome Project consistently met projected milestones ahead of schedule and under budget. This remarkable international project culminated in April 2003 with the completion of a finished sequence of the human DNA instruction book.

"The National Institutes of Health stands as a model when it comes to science and research," said President Obama upon nominating Collins. "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."

In addition to his achievements as the NHGRI director, Collins' own research laboratory discovered a number of important genes, including those responsible for cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, Huntington's disease, a familial endocrine cancer syndrome, and most recently, the gene that causes Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome and genes for type 2 diabetes.

Collins has a longstanding interest in the interface between science and faith and has written about this in The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (Free Press, 2006), which spent many weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. He is the author of a new book on personalized medicine, The Language of Life: DNA and the Revolution in Personalized Medicine (HarperCollins, 2010).

"As a scientist, physician, and passionate visionary, Dr. Collins will further NIH's ultimate mission to improve human health," said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "He is an ideal choice to lead the NIH and I look forward to working closely with him."

Collins received a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Virginia, a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Yale University, and an M.D. with honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to coming to the NIH in 1993, he spent 9 years on the faculty of the University of Michigan, where he was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. He is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences. Collins was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2007.

The NIH comprises 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the HHS. The NIH is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.

For more information about Collins, visit

For more information about the NIH and its programs, visit

NIH Publication No. 10-5743
April 2010

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