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Praise for NIH Pick Widespread, But Not Unanimous

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Dr. Francis S. Collins, nominated to lead the U.S. National Institutes of Health, is respected by top scientists and research organizations, but praise for President Barack Obama's choice to direct the mammoth health agency isn't universal, The New York Times reported.

While Dr. Otis W. Brawley, the American Cancer Society's chief medical officer, called Collins "an extraordinary scientist and one of the nicest guys you could ever meet," others privately told the newspaper that they're worried about Collins' near-evangelistic embrace of religion.

Numerous times, he has publicly recounted his conversion to Christianity as a medical student in his late 20s, the Times reported. More recently, Collins penned a book called "The Language of God."

Others take issue with his leadership of the NIH's Human Genome Project. While Collins was lauded in 2003 when the program succeeded in its goal to map the billions of base pairs that comprise human DNA, some have soured on the accomplishment, saying it hasn't led to "an array of promising medical interventions," the Times reported.

Collins shouldn't shoulder blame for the genetic research industry's failure to come up with quick medical breakthroughs, the newspaper said, adding, "He played an important role in raising expectations impossibly high." Other critics cited the "extraordinary" cost of the project, the Times reported.

Collins has a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Yale and a medical degree from the University of North Carolina. His confirmation by the U.S. Senate appears likely, the Times said.

The NIH, the world's primary source of medical research funding, is slated to distribute some $37 billion in research grants and spend $4 billion on its own research programs over the next 14 months, the newspaper said.

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Some interesting information on Collins is found at these URLs:

July 29, 2009 - 7:46am
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