Obama to nominate geneticist Collins as NIH director

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Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD
Source: genome.gov

President Barack Obama is planning to nominate Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, as director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Collins, a physician-geneticist, is known for several discoveries of disease genes, his leadership of the Human Genome Project and as the former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) at the NIH from 1993-2008, according to the White House.

NIH is scheduled to distribute approximately $37 billion in research grants and spend $4 billion on research programs at its Maryland campus over the next 14 months.

The White House said that Collins' research laboratory has discovered a number of genes, including those responsible for cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, Huntington's disease, a familial endocrine cancer syndrome and most recently, genes for type 2 diabetes and the gene that causes Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome.

Prior to coming to NIH in 1993, he spent nine years on the faculty of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he was an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He has been elected to the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2007.

The White House aslo noted that Collins has a "longstanding interest in the interface between science and faith," which he wrote about in The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief in 2006.  He also has completed a new book on personalized medicine, The Language of Life: DNA and the Revolution in Personalized Medicine that is scheduled to be published in early 2010.