Francis Collins on Jim Watson, Personality & Influence: The Human Genome Project
  Francis Collins     Biography    
Recorded: 31 May 2003

So Jim had a very different style than I did, and his style was right for his time and I hope mine wasn’t too wrong for my time. His style was to get this thing going; to get people excited about it, to get the Congress excited about it, to get the scientists excited about it. Jim had instant credibility, instant name recognition. If Watson was for this, how could you be against it? I mean, come on now, so he got the ball rolling. He also, very thoughtfully, he sort of figured out what the initial structure ought to look like, but you know by 1993 when I arrived on the scene, things were still in disarray, and I had to be much more, I think, focused on the details, on the organization, on how to get the milestones to find, on how to try to organize the technology development, the model organisms efforts, the mapping—I mean we didn’t know how to sequence at that point, at least not in any kind of serious degree. And trying to get my mind around all of that at once and figure out how my management style was going to work. I’ve never managed anything bigger than a group of maybe a couple of dozen people, and suddenly I was supposed to be organizing the most important scientific adventure of all time. I mean, gee; this is a little daunting.

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.