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.”

Robert Lefkowitz is a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who is best known for showing how adrenaline works via stimulation of specific receptors.  He was trained at Columbia, NIH, and Harvard before joining the faculty at Duke University and becoming an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.  In addition to being a researcher, Bob is a cardiologist as well as a cardiac patient.  His book is titled: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Stockholm: The Adrenaline-Fueled Adventures of an Accidental Scientist. 

 

Some interesting insights from this episode:

  • He started out as a physician but he preferred the creativity and experimentation needed in research over the disciplined approach of following standard operating procedures needed to succeed in medicine. He was much more motivated by trying to figure something out that had never been done before.
  • He won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his discovery on G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). Many basic physiological processes depend on GPCRs and around half of all medications act through those receptors such as beta blockers and antihistamines. This has allowed the treatment of hypertension and coronary disease among many other conditions.
  • It was never his intention to cure a disease or create a drug but rather he was driven by raw curiosity to understand a particular biological phenomenon.
  • He had two deep-seated feelings in his 20s that he would die young and accomplish something of significance. These premonitions would motivate and propel him throughout his career.
  • Because of his passion, social nature and upbeat personality, the press in Stockholm gave him the moniker “The Happiest Laureate”.
  • Even for the most successful scientists, their experiments only work about 2% of the time. So you need to learn to live with failure and find a way to stay motivated.
  • “Excellence is marshalling whatever your powers are to the fullest extent to do things that are of some inherent value.”

 

Show Notes

Bio

Books:

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Stockholm

Other links mentioned:

THE POZCAST by Adam Posner

NHP Talent Group