- Lisa Green
Rumors have been flying about who President Obama will appoint to head the National Institute of Health (NIH). Since the beginning of the Obama administration, Francis Collins has been considered one of the frontrunners for the post, but in the last two weeks the rumor mill seems to think that Collins is as good as appointed.
On Saturday, the LA Times reported that “a source familiar with the selection process” said that Collins was in the final stages of screening. The general consensus of the scientific community is that Collins will pass the screening with flying colors.
Collins was the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) for 15 years where he spearheaded the campaign to map the human genome. When he stepped down from that position a year ago the then-head of NIH, Elias Zerhouni, said “Francis has provided 15 years of outstanding leadership to NHGRI and has been a trailblazer in the scientific community at large. His contributions to the world of genomics and medicine have been enormous. He has been a tremendous colleague, friend, and brilliant visionary. I know that he will continue to make groundbreaking advances in biomedical research.”
In addition to an intimate understanding of both basic and clinical research, Collins also knows his way around Capitol Hill. When he led the human genome project, he created the ELSI program in order to research the ethical, legal and social implications of the human genome science. Collins’ concern about those issues led to him working closing with Congress on the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act (GINA). Last summer the New England Journal of Medicine did a video interview with Collins as a supplemental to his paper Keeping pace with the times–the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008. Watching the interview you can see many characteristics that would make Francis Collins an excellent leader for the NIH.