Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., a physician-geneticist and leader of the Human Genome Project, has been named recipient of the inaugural Inamori Ethics Prize from the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence at Case Western Reserve University.
The Inamori Ethics Prize honors outstanding international ethical leaders. It is presented annually to an individual who has demonstrated exemplary ethical leadership and whose actions and influence have greatly improved the condition of humankind. The Inamori Ethics Prize carries with it a $25,000 cash award, intended to support the ongoing work of the prize recipient.
A ceremony recognizing Collins will be held in conjunction with an ethics and genetics symposium and lecture September 4, 2008 at Severance Hall, on the Case Western Reserve campus.
"Dr. Collins' reputation as a principled leader of the Human Genome Project and the understanding that the Human Genome Project holds enormous potential for the improvement of humankind, make him an ideal recipient of the first Inamori Ethics Prize," said Gregory L. Eastwood, M.D., director of the Inamori Center.
Noted for his landmark discoveries of disease genes, Collins serves as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). His laboratory is dedicated to researching both rare and common diseases and has discovered a number of important genes, including those responsible for cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, Huntington's disease, adult onset diabetes and Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, a dramatic form of premature aging.
Collins led the multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional Human Genome Project, an international effort to map and sequence the three billion letters in the human DNA, offering the first complete view of the "human instruction book." With its ultimate goal of improving human health, many consider the project to be one of the most significant scientific undertakings of our time. All the groundbreaking data are now available to the scientific community without restrictions on access or use.
Since the project's culmination in 2003, Collins has directed NHGRI's efforts to ensure that the important genetic data contained within the book are translated into powerful tools and thoughtful strategies to advance biological knowledge and improve human health.
Collins aims to open avenues for genome research to benefit the health of people living in developing nations, building on his own experiences as a physician volunteer in a rural missionary hospital in Nigeria.
"Throughout his long and distinguished career, Dr. Collins has consistently emphasized the importance of ethical and legal issues in genetics, while at the same time working tirelessly to improving the lives of people worldwide," said Eastwood.
According to the NHGRI, its supported initiatives currently include efforts to map human genetic variation, to develop less costly sequencing technologies and to unravel the genetics of cancer and other common diseases. Following the precedent set by the Human Genome Project under Collins' leadership, these projects are committed to making their data rapidly and freely available to the worldwide scientific community.
His book, "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief" (Free Press, 2006), which broaches the interface between science and faith, spent several weeks on The New York Times bestseller's list.
Collins received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Virginia, a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Yale University and his M.D. from the University of North Carolina. After an internal medicine residency at UNC and a genetics fellowship at Yale, he joined the faculty at the University of Michigan School of Medicine. He was appointed director of the National Center for Human Genome Research at NIH in 1993.
A member of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, Collins has nearly 400 scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals, has received nine honorary degrees and in November 2007 was a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The purpose of the Inamori Center is to foster ethical leadership around the world. The Inamori Center fulfills its purpose by awarding the high profile Inamori Ethics Prize annually, collaborating with people and programs at Case Western Reserve University and around the world, and sponsoring ethics research, scholarship, symposia, lectures, and other means of ethical discourse.
The Inamori Center began in July 2006 as the result of a generous gift from Kazuo Inamori, president of the Inamori Foundation. Dr. Inamori, founder of the Kyocera Corporation and KDDI Corporation, believes that "the future of humanity can be assured only when there is a balance between scientific development and the enrichment of the human spirit." The center is charged with creating internationally recognized programs and initiatives devoted to ethical inquiry in both its practical and theoretical aspects, and to facilitating the development of future leaders who will, in the words of Dr. Inamori, "serve humankind through ethical deeds rather than actions based on self-interest and selfish desires."
Case Western Reserve University is committed to the free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate and intellectual dialogue. Speakers and scholars with a diversity of opinions and perspectives are invited to the campus to provide the community with important points of view, some of which may be deemed controversial. The views and opinions of those invited to speak on the campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.