The National Institutes of Health (NIH) officially swore in Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, as its new director on August 17. Collins became the 16th director of the NIH following a July 8 nomination by President Barack Obama and a unanimous confirmation by the US Senate on August 7.

According to the NIH, Raynard S. Kington, MD, PhD, who has served as acting NIH director since mid-October, will return to his role as NIH principal deputy director.

"As a scientist, physician, and passionate visionary, Dr. Collins will further NIH’s ultimate mission to improve human health," said US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in an announcement. "He is an ideal choice to lead the NIH and I look forward to working closely with him."

"I am truly honored and humbled to take the helm today of the world’s leading organization supporting biomedical research," said Collins. "The scientific opportunities in both the basic and clinical realms are unprecedented, and the talent and dedication of the grantees and the staff guarantee that this will be a truly exciting era."

Collins is a physician-geneticist noted for his discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the Human Genome Project. He served as director of NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) from 1993 to 2008. Under his direction, the Human Genome Project culminated in April 2003 with the completion of a finished sequence of the human DNA instruction book.

Collins’ own research laboratory discovered a number of important genes, including those responsible for cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, Huntington’s disease, a familial endocrine cancer syndrome, and most recently, genes for type 2 diabetes and the gene that causes Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome.

Collins received a BS in chemistry from the University of Virginia, a PhD in physical chemistry from Yale University, and an MD with honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

More information on the NIH director can be found online.