NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. has been named a recipient of the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research for his leading role in mapping the human genome. While accepting the honor, Dr. Collins declined his portion of the $500,000 prize in order to comply with government ethics rules.
Collins will share the honor with co-recipients Eric Lander, Ph.D., director of the Broad Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, and David Botstein, Ph.D., director of the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University.
The prize was announced today by James J. Barba, president and chief executive officer of Albany Medical Center and chairman of the National Selection Committee. This year's honorees will be recognized during an April 23 celebration at Albany Medical Center in Albany, N.Y.
"These three scientists undoubtedly will hold a special place in the history of science and medicine as primary initiators of a profound revolution in human development," stated Barba. "This is because they unlocked and opened the door that had previously barred us from understanding disease processes at the most basic genetic level."
"The Human Genome Project has made it possible for us to identify genetic causes of illness in a fraction of the time it used to take," Dr. Collins said. "This was truly a collaborative, international effort involving more than 2,000 scientists in six countries, working together to make that first human sequence possible. It is important to note that the Human Genome Project gave away all the data immediately. That kind of free and rapid data release has now become the standard for many other large scale collaborative projects, speeding up the application of these discoveries to clinical medicine."
Collectively, the work of Drs. Collins, Lander, and Botstein has unlocked the human genome, paving the way for easier identification and study of genes associated with common diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease, and less common genetic conditions like progeria (premature aging) and Huntington's disease. Knowledge gleaned from the Human Genome Project, in which all three played a key role, has led to an explosion of genetic research and will in the future be a key to diagnosing, treating, and combating a myriad of human disease conditions.
This is the 10th year the Albany Medical Center Prize, often called "America's Nobel," has been awarded. It was established in 2000 by the late Morris "Marty" Silverman to honor scientists whose work has translated from "the bench to the bedside" resulting in better outcomes for patients and to draw positive attention to Albany Medical Center and the Capital Region of New York as a center for biomedical research and medical education. A $50 million gift commitment from the Marty and Dorothy Silverman Foundation to Albany Medical Center provides for the Prize to be awarded annually for 100 years.