Former NHGRI Directors

National Human Genome Research Institute

National Institutes of Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Former NHGRI Directors

Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D.

Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D.
Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D., was the acting director for the National Human Genome Research Institute from 2008 to 2010. Born in Baltimore, Md., Dr. Guttmacher received an A.B. degree in 1972 from Harvard College and his M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1981. From 1982 to 1985, Dr. Guttmacher completed an internship and residency in pediatrics at Children's Hospital Boston. In 1985, he earned a two-year National Research Service Award from the U.S. Public Health Service as a fellow in medical genetics at Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School. In 1987, Dr. Guttmacher became director of the Vermont Regional Genetics Center at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. While there, he launched a series of public health genetics programs. In addition, Dr. Guttmacher directed the Vermont Cancer Center's Familial Cancer Program, the Vermont Newborn Screening Program, Vermont's only pediatric intensive care unit, and an NIH-supported initiative that was the nation's first statewide effort to involve the general public in discussion of the Human Genome Project's ethical, legal, and social implications.

 

In 1999, Dr. Guttmacher joined the NHGRI as Senior Clinical Advisor to the Director. In that role, he established a dialogue with health professionals and the public about the health and societal implications of the HGP. He has given hundreds of talks to physicians, consumer groups, students and the lay public about genetics and its impact on health, health care and society. In 2002, Dr. Guttmacher became the NHGRI Deputy Director. From August 2, 2008 until November 30, 2009, Dr. Guttmacher was the Acting Director of NHGRI. On December 1, 2009, he also became the Acting Director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. On August 1, 2010, Dr. Guttmacher became the director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

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Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

Francis Collins
Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., was the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for 15 years, beginning in 1993, until his retirement from the position on August 1, 2008. Under his leadership, the National Center for Human Genome Research was established as an institute and named the National Human Genome Research Institute in 1997.

 

During his tenure at NHGRI, Dr. Collins led the successful effort to complete the Human Genome Project (HGP), a complex multidisciplinary scientific enterprise directed at mapping and sequencing all of the human DNA, and determining aspects of its function. A working draft of the human genome sequence was announced in June of 2000, an initial analysis was published in February of 2001, and a high-quality, reference sequence was completed in April 2003. All the data generated by the Human Genome Project is now available to the scientific community without restrictions on access or use. Dr. Collins encouraged NHGRI's effort to ensure that this new trove of sequence data is translated into tools and strategies to advance biological knowledge and improve human health.

Dr. Collins received a B.S. from the University of Virginia, a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Yale University, and an M.D. 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 moving to NIH in 1993. His research has led to the identification of genetic variants associated with type 2 diabetes and the genes responsible for cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, Huntington's disease and Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences.

On Nov. 5, 2007, Dr. Collins received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civil award, for his revolutionary contributions to genetic research.

In August 2008, Dr. Collins left his position as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute to explore other writing and professional opportunities.

On August 17, 2009, Dr. Collins was sworn in as the 16 director of the National Institutes of Health. He maintains his laboratory position at NHGRI as a senior investigator in the Genome Technoogy Branch and the head of the Molecular Genetics Section.

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Michael M. Gottesman, M.D.

Michael M. Gottesman, M.D.

Michael M. Gottesman, M.D., was the acting director for the National Center for Human Genome Research from 1992 to 1993. Since 1993, Dr. Gottesman has served as the NIH deputy director for intramural research (DDIR) and as chief of NCI's Laboratory of Cell Biology.

Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, Dr. Gottesman received his B.A. degree from Harvard College in 1966 and earned his M.D. degree at Harvard Medical School in 1970.

At NIH, his research interests have ranged from how DNA is replicated in bacteria to how cancer cells elude chemotherapy. His research has earned him many awards, including the Milken Family Foundation Award for Cancer Research, 1990; C.E. Alken Prize, 1991; the Rosenthal Foundation Award, 1992; and the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) award in 1997. He was elected a fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1988, elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies in 2003, and elected to the Association of American Physicians in 2006. He received the Public Health Service Commendation, Outstanding Service and Distinguished Service awards, the NIH Director's award in 2002, and the HHS Secretary's Award for Distinguished Service in 2005.

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James D. Watson, Ph.D.

James D. Watson, Ph.D.
Dr. James Watson was the first director of the newly established National Center for Human Genome Research at the National Institutes of Health. He directed the center for three years, from 1989-92.

 

Born in Chicago on April 6, 1928, Watson is best know as the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, the double-helix. Watson and fellow scientist Francis Crick were the first to describe the hidden double-helix structure of DNA molecules. They published their findings in the journal Nature in April of 1953. The discovery was considered tremendously significant, and in 1962 Watson and Crick and their collaborator Maurice Wilkins were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

Watson's account of his DNA discoveries with Crick, The Double Helix, was published in 1968. Watson was on the faculty of Harvard University for 21 years, from 1956-76 and also served as president and later as chancellor of Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory in New York.

In later years he was known for controversial off-the-cuff remarks on various topics related to genetics and gender. He resigned as chancellor of Cold Springs Harbor in 2007 after causing controversy when he suggested that people from Africa were genetically less intelligent than whites. His other books include DNA: The Secret of Life (2003) and Avoid Boring People (2007).
 

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Last Updated: March 26, 2014