February 9, 2007

Francis Collins, 'human genome' leader, to speak at Purdue

Francis Collins
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Dr. Francis Collins, best-selling author of "The Language of God," will speak at Purdue University on Feb. 20.

Collins' free public lecture is scheduled for 8 p.m. in Stewart Center's Loeb Playhouse. A reception and book signing in the West Foyer of Stewart Center will follow the talk.

Collins serves as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. He coordinated the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium, better known as the Human Genome Project. Under Collins' leadership, the group successfully mapped and sequenced human DNA, releasing its final results both ahead of schedule and under budget in 2003.

Collins' contributions to science include a gene-hunting approach called "positional cloning," which he used to successfully identify the gene responsible for cystic fibrosis in 1989. He later used the technique to isolate the genes tied to a number of other illnesses, including Huntington's disease and a form of adult acute leukemia.

Collins received his bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia and his doctoral degree in physical chemistry from Yale University. He later obtained his medical doctorate from the University of North Carolina. Following a fellowship in human genetics at Yale, he joined the faculty at the University of Michigan, where he remained until 1993 when he began work at the National Institutes of Health.

His book, "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief," published in July 2006, has received strong reviews. He is a member of both the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies and the National Academy of Sciences.

The Purdue chapter of Sigma Xi, a scientific research society formed on campus in 1909, is sponsoring Collins' visit to Purdue. Purdue's chapter, one of the first to be formed in the nation, is among more than 500 in existence today.

Connie Weaver, a member of Sigma Xi and head and distinguished professor of the Department of Foods and Nutrition, called Collins' visit a landmark opportunity for the campus and public to learn from one of the great scientific minds of today.

"Francis Collins has changed the face of science and medicine for the better," Weaver said. "His work with the Human Genome Project holds particular promise for helping scientists uncover genetic abnormalities which may lead to myriad diseases."

The Office of the Provost, Purdue Libraries and a number of other colleges and schools at the university are co-sponsoring the lecture.

Writer: Tanya Brown, (765) 496-9711, tanyabrown@purdue.edu

Source: Connie Weaver, (765) 494-8231, weavercm@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

Note to Journalists: Journalists are invited to a media availability with Francis Collins at 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 20 in Purdue Memorial Union's Anniversary Drawing Room (Room 304).

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