Recorded: 14 May 2004
Francis took over from Jim after the period in which Jim had disagreements with the head of the NIH and eventually was fired from his position. That event created quite a bit of uncertainty. We were all a little surprised when Francis stepped up and took that position, but we weren’t at all concerned or disappointed. It was just not fully expected by us all in the broader community, mainly because Francis at that time was identified to us as a positional gene cloner. There was a rising tension already at that time between the gene cloners and the people who were really serious about genomics and wanted to get on and do the whole genome.
I recall very vividly Francis Collins, at this place, here at the Cold Spring Harbor meeting, the year he was appointed, giving his speech and introducing himself now as the leader of the genome center to the whole group and saying that, well, it was the end of the old days. There were no more gene cloning experiments being funded at the genome project’s expense. He used to do that, but he wouldn’t do it anymore. And now is the era of the new genomics.
So it was impressive. Francis stood up, and I think, gave quite a rousing speech and gave everybody a lot of enthusiasm for his leadership at that time.
Richard A. Gibbs is currently the Director of the Human Genome Sequencing Center at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) and the Wofford Cain Professor in the Department of Molecular and Human Genetics. He received a B.Sc. (Hons) in 1979 and a Ph.D. in Genetics and Radiation Biology in 1985 at the University of Melbourne in Australia. In 1990 he completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine, studying the molecular basis of human X-linked diseases and developing technologies for rapid genetic analysis. He developed several fundamental technologies for nucleic acid analysis. In 1991, he joined the BCM faculty and played a key role in the early planning and development phases of the Human Genome Project. In 1996, he established the BCM Human Genome Sequencing Center when Baylor was chosen as one of six programs to complete the final phase of the Human Genome Project. Dr. Gibbs has also made significant contributions to the deciphering of the fly, mouse, dictyostelium, and rat genomes. Among the numerous awards and honors received by Dr. Gibbs, he was awarded the Michael E. DeBakey, M.D., Excellence in Research Award in 2000.