Obama nominates UNC alum, Francis S. Collins, to head NIH

Wednesday, July 8, 2009 - On Wednesday July 8, Dr. Francis S. Collins, physician and geneticist, and an alumnus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, was nominated by President Barack Obama to be director of the National Institutes of Health.

The nomination of Collins comes nine months after the departure of Elias A. Zerhouni, the agency's previous director. The NIH, which distributes $30-billion a year in federal money, is the single largest source of money for academic research in the United States. The agency has been allocated $10.4-billion from the $787-billion economic-stimulus measure enacted this year by Congress.

Collins resigned last year from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), where he directed the federal project to map the human genome.

After earning a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Virginia in 1970, Collins went to Yale University, where he received a Ph.D. in physical chemistry at in 1974. Recognizing the importance of new developments in molecular biology and genetics, he then changed fields, enrolling in medical school at the University of North Carolina, earning an M.D. in 1977.

After a residence and chief residency in internal medicine at UNC from 1978-1981, he returned to Yale for a fellowship in human genetics. Innovative methods he developed at Yale for exploring large stretches of DNA to identify disease genes have developed into an important component of modern molecular genetics.

Upon Senate confirmation of his nomination, Collins would succeed Raynard Kington, who has been acting director at the N.I.H. since last fall.

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