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Monday, June 2, 2008

Francis Collins Is Leaving His Job

Dr. Francis Collins will step down as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute on August 1 after 15 years of service. Under his watch, the institute made revolutionary strides in genetic research, most notably through the Human Genome Project and its mapping of the human genome. For his efforts, Collins received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor bestowed upon American civilians. More recently, Collins helped push the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, a milestone in genetic research ethics that forbids insurers and employers from denying coverage based on genetic risks. He cites the law's passage as a factor in his decision to leave, reassuring him that the research can progress in his absence. Collins, who is 58, also says he wants to write books and explore opportunities that are not available to federal employees. His 2006 book The Language of God made an impact in the field of science and religion by affirming "theistic evolution." Now that he'll have the freedom to pursue other projects, perhaps he'll become an even more participatory voice in the science-and-religion dialogue. —Stephen Mapes