NHGRI Director Francis Collins to Step Down on August 1

NHGRI Director Francis Collins to Step Down on August 1

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted May 28, 2008 in Personalities with DNA

francis collinsLast year I wondered why Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), seemed to be keeping a low profile. Maybe he was already plotting his exit then.

About an hour ago, I received an email from the man himself announcing his plans to resign from the NHGRI starting August 1, 2008. (For a second I thought I was on some personal mailing list of his until I realized it was distributed via the Genetic Alliance Announcements List. D’oh. Delusions of grandeur….) He is leaving to devote time to “writing, reflection and exploration of other professional opportunities in the public or private sectors.” Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D., will become acting director.

Here’s an excerpt from his email:

Looking back, I’m tremendously proud of our collective work in leading the Human Genome Project (HGP) to its successful conclusion in 2003, and of our wide range of large-scale projects that built upon the foundation laid by the HGP. Collectively, these projects and the priceless data they generated have transformed biomedical research and empowered researchers all around the world. I’m also proud of these projects’ commitments to protecting the privacy of genetic information and addressing the ethical, legal and social implications of genome research.

In addition to his work on the human genome, Dr. Collins has also been known for his controversial religious beliefs. In a 2006 interview I conducted with Dr. PZ Myers of Pharyngula, he said the following of Francis Collins’ book – The Language of God.

Once upon a time, I would have said that my view of genetics/genomics wouldn’t be much different from those who profess a faith — good scientists can sequester their religious beliefs from the practice of science. Unfortunately, I’ve since read Francis Collins’ new book, and that incoherent spewage of irrational lunacy is swaying me the other way, to regard religion as a toxin that corrupts good minds. The Language of God is precisely the kind of example that convinces me of the destructive failures of religious belief.

What memories do you have of Francis Collins?

Update: Sandra Porter at Discovering Biology in a Digital World remembers Dr. Collins singing about DNA with a guitar at a fund-raising dinner.

More: Francis S. Collins to Step Down as Director of National Human Genome Research Institute, NIH News

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