Francis Collins on Cold Spring Harbor Symposia
  Francis Collins     Biography    
Recorded: 31 May 2003

Cold Spring Harbor has been for me and I think for anybody involved in the core of what genomics is all about, This is the center of where you gather to tell your colleagues about what has happened that’s new and exciting. I’ve come to the genomics meetings at Cold Spring Harbor for, gosh, ever since they’ve been genomic meetings at Cold Spring Harbor. I don’t think I missed one and and they are clearly the moment during any given year where the most important, exciting presentations and conversations occur because this is seen as the place where you want to be if you’re really going to be talking about what’s happening and what will happen. So many other disciplines have their meeting, for genomics, its Cold Spring Harbor. It has been from the beginning and nothing else has ever really made a serious competition for that niche, and I hope that continues. I think this is the kind of environment. And it’s an international one especially for this field where people do come with a sense that there’s going to be openness. That’s there’s going to be a great comfort with people standing up and challenging a particular perspective. That young people are welcome. That old codgers are welcome as well, and that they can interact with each other and there’s no barriers to that. This is sort of the idyllic way that science is supposed to happen. And Cold Spring Harbor provides that opportunity. And I think it’s made a big difference. If we hadn’t has this venue I’m not sure we would have negotiated all of the many complications. I mean I can look back personally at the times where really difficult things had to be decided. And many of them got decided in conversations at the bar or out in the grass, or sitting by the harbor right here.

Francis Collins earned a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Virginia (1970), a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Yale University (1974), and an M.D. from the University of North Carolina (1977). While a researcher at the University of Michigan (1984-1993), he pioneered “positional cloning” methods which resulted in the Collins team and their collaborators isolating the genes responsible for cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease, neurofibromatosis, and others.

In 1993 he accepted leadership of the Human Genome Project (HGP) by becoming Director of the National Center for Human Genome Research (NHGRI). With Dr. Collins as head of the NHGRI, the HGP attained its goal of sequencing all 3 billion base pairs of the human genome.

He has attended all of the Cold Spring Harbor meetings on genomics.