AAAS Philip Hauge Abelson Prize
2009 Award Recipient
Francis S. Collins
Francis S. Collins
Francis S. Collins is recognized on the basis of his extraordinary skills as a scientist, as a spokesperson for the ethical and responsible use of science, as a communicator with the public and policy makers, and for his pioneering leadership of major, highly successful federal scientific initiatives.
The Philip Hauge Abelson Prize, established in 1985, recognizes a public servant for sustained exceptional contributions to advancing science, or a scientist whose career has been distinguished both for scientific achievement and for other notable services to the scientific community. The recipient receives $5,000 and a commemorative medallion.
Francis Collins is a physician-geneticist best known for his landmark discoveries of genes associated with cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease, neurofibromatosis, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1, and the M4 type of adult acute leukemia, as well as his pioneering leadership of the Human Genome Project. His contributions to U.S. science and human welfare, however, extend well beyond these accomplishments.
Dr. Collins earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Yale University and an M.D. with honors from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill. He then spent nine years at the University of Michigan Medical School, rising quickly from assistant to full professor and becoming a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.
In 1993, Dr. Collins succeeded James Watson as director of the National Institute of Health’s National Center for Human Genome Research, now the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). The outcome of his direction of the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium is well-known: the Human Genome Project—the federal government’s most ambitious and most expensive life sciences endeavor—met project milestones ahead of schedule and under budget and, in June 2000, a working draft of the human genome was presented in a ceremony featuring Collins, President Clinton, and Celera Genomics founder J. Craig Venter.
During his 15 years as NHGRI director, Dr. Collins also was the public face of the Human Genome Project and related endeavors, as well as an able and trusted defender of them before Congress. He was able to bring about free and rapid access to genetic information for the worldwide scientific community and extend the research in new, large-scale projects, including sequencing other organisms to help interpret the human genome.
His achievements have been recognized by numerous organizations. He was elected to membership in both the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007, and has served on the editorial boards of numerous scientific journals.
In August 2009, Dr. Collins became the 16th director of the National Institutes of Health.