Gene research pioneer to head NIH

Associated Press / July 9, 2009
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WASHINGTON - President Obama is choosing an influential scientist who helped unravel the human genetic code - and is known for finding common ground between belief in God and science - to head the National Institutes of Health.

Obama called Dr. Francis Collins “one of the top scientists in the world’’ in announcing his nomination yesterday.

The NIH is the nation’s premiere medical research agency, directing $29.5 billion to spur innovative science that leads to better health. Collins would come to the job with a reputation for translating the complexities of DNA into language the everyday American can understand.

The folksy Collins led the Human Genome Project, which, along with a competing private company, mapped the genetic code - or, as he famously called it, “the book of human life.’’

“It is humbling for me, and awe-inspiring, to realize that we have caught the first glimpse of our own instruction book, previously known only to God,’’ Collins said at a 2000 White House ceremony marking release of the genome’s first draft.