Francis Collins is the Director of the National Institutes of Health, the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world. Francis is a physician-geneticist noted for his landmark discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the international Human Genome Project. Francis is an elected member of both the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science. In 2020, he was elected as a Foreign Member of the Royal Society (UK) and was also named the 50th winner of the Templeton Prize, which celebrates scientific and spiritual curiosity.
Some interesting insights from this episode:
- He was able to act in his family’s community theater as a child which served as an important foundation for his exemplary ability to communicate.
- He was an atheist early in life but a patient asking about his beliefs sent him down a path of exploration and meaning and he ended up becoming a devout Christian.
- He developed a technique known as positional cloning for identifying genes. With this technique, he discovered the gene responsible for cystic fibrosis and Huntington’s Disease.
- He led the Human Genome Project, the global consortium which sequenced the entire human genome, one of the biggest most monumental scientific breakthroughs ever.
- “Science can produce knowledge but the way you apply that knowledge is where ethics and morality kick in.”
- The next frontier in science will be decoding the brain, the most complex part of the human body.
- “Excellence is not just about being able to bring your best, your creative approach, your work ethic, and your dedication but also being in the service of something that matters.”