Francis Collins on Competition in Science
  Francis Collins     Biography    
Recorded: 31 May 2003

Oh, yeah and it was a good thing. I mean we would not be where we are. We wouldn’t even be in the same zone if it weren’t for that rush of competition. If it wasn’t for the fact that Whitehead wanted to show they were better than St. Louis, and St. Louis wanted to show that even though they were working with the Sanger, they were a little better than the Sanger and vice-versa. That instinct is a good instinct, and it advances science. It moves the ball forward at a pace that otherwise would not happen, but in complete conflict with that was this notion that now we had to get together and do this project as a team. And you can still have competition within the team and we did. But it can’t be destructive and it can’t be I only win if they lose. It’s got to be I only win if they win, we all have to win together.

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.