Welcome to The NIH Director’s Blog!

I’m starting this blog to highlight new discoveries in biology and medicine that I think are game changers, noteworthy, or just plain cool. Depending on what’s going on in the world of biomedical research, I may tell you about an interesting study in a journal, or share my thoughts about a news item or public health issue.

My own research background has involved hunting for disease genes and leading the effort to sequence the human genome. So naturally this blog may gravitate a bit towards genomics and personalized medicine, but I promise you it won’t stop there. I want this blog to cover the amazing range of biomedical research—from a cell biologist developing new insights into the intricacies of signal transduction to a medical doctor investigating new therapies in a clinical research trial.

Sometimes I’ll look at how large, multidisciplinary teams of scientists are enabling us to move research forward at a pace unimaginable just a few decades ago. On other occasions, I’ll show you how a single brilliant investigator, perhaps working in a field that seemed obscure to most, has hit upon a finding that substantially expands our understanding of life and health. Also, as I come across cool scientific images or fascinating facts about biology or health, I plan to share them with you, right here on this blog.

I hope you get a charge out of this! I look forward to hearing from you, and from everyone who is excited as I am about the future of biomedical research.

Francis S. Collins
Director, National Institutes of Health

18 thoughts on “Welcome to The NIH Director’s Blog!

  1. Awesome! We really need your help getting out the word that biomedical research is not only cool–it’s essential for the future of our nation.

  2. Glad to see the blog from Dr. Francis Collins. Looking forward to the thoughtful views on biomedical research.

  3. This is a wonderful idea and hopefully the public will be able to see why investing in research and technology in this country is so import and vital for our future.

  4. Fabulous way to share the tremendous advances biomedical research continues making.
    Rock on Francis! And be well.

  5. Dear Dr. Collins,
    As someone who represents thousands of senior citizens as a health advocate, I would hope the NIH will help in every way possible, to expedite these therapies asap. Knowing hundreds of people who suffer with AMD, Parkinson’s, Arthritic conditions unable to care for themselves will hopefully be a thing of the past.

    Let the USA lead the world, before China does.

    • Amen… come on USA. first gene therapy in the UK. we cant even decide what’s an embryonic stem cell here… cmon!

  6. Dear Dr. Collins,

    So nice to connect with you in person!

    Will be interesting to see how this blog is maintained.

    -Vrushank Dave’ MS/Ph.D.

  7. This is a great idea and I hope we follow it in the UK where I live. I’m impressed that your special interest is genetics since I think the way genes adapt to our environment determines a lot of disease.

  8. Where is the blog for the scientists who are actually doing the
    basic biomedical research that advances in disease treatment
    are based on? Those are the people in the trenches who are
    doing the work. I appreciate Francis Collin’s viewpoint on what he thinks is exciting and important, but the simple fact is that he is no longer in the thick of doing research himself and his viewpoint, as a result, is necessarily narrow.

    • Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts, Joel. To help spread the word about how important biomedical research is for America’s health and economic well being, I encourage you and other scientists “in the trenches” to start your own blogs, Twitter feeds, or Facebook pages. The more voices, the better!

      However, I do want to let everyone know that I’m still in the “thick of doing research,” some of it quite basic. My postdocs would be surprised to hear that I am no longer engaged in that activity! My lab, which is located on NIH’s main campus in Bethesda, MD, is currently doing work in genetics, epigenomics, and molecular biology to identify and understand the function of genes involved in a range of human diseases, especially type 2 diabetes and the rare disease of premature aging called Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome. The lab underwent a rigorous external review a year ago and was judged outstanding. For more on our work, have a look at PubMed.

      • Well said Dr. Collins. The more engaged leaders in the sciences are the less opaque their work, and its importance, will be. With initiatives like PCORI actually designed to bring patients into the process of defining research questions even NIH will become more patient-centric. I hope your colleagues across NIH join you in advancing a new transparency for the public.

  9. Great idea and wonderful way to inform the public about important issues in biomedical science. Can you add Facebook to the share feature? It will allow for a wider dissemination of these posts. Thanks.

  10. Francis,

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=collins%20fs

    This is a pubmed website of some of your publications. You and I are obviously from different eras, as I still think of basic research being done in comparatively small labs. I realize that this may not be entirely possible in Human Genetics, which is not basic research. Many of these papers have 50 or more authors. Do they all use the paper in their ‘bibiliographies’? And have they all even read the paper? You, indeed, did “basic” research in the late 80′s when you discovered the gene for Cystic Fibrosis. That was 25 years ago. We still don’t know how it functions. How about placing some of the resources you obviously have at hand toward the discovery of how defects in the CFTR gene actually cause a malfunction in the cell and, thereby, cystic fibrosis? I suspect that the dozens of authors on these papers are, in one way or another, supported by NIH funding. Finding a gene for a disease is one thing, determining how the gene product actually functions is something else, and that is exactly where greater effort and funding is required.

    • While I very much appreciate your perspective from a lifetime of productive research, Joel, I do think that, in today’s world, basic research is being advanced by small labs, by large, interdisciplinary teams of researchers (think ENCODE, for instance), and by a wide range of creative approaches that lie somewhere in between. For example, while my own lab remains quite modest in size, we freely engage in collaborations that extend our ability to make progress. Those multi-authored papers are the result – and, yes, I read drafts of every one!

      I’d also like to reiterate, though it’s admittedly a small matter in the scheme of things, that the primary focus of my own lab is indeed basic science. Specifically, we are exploring the epigenomics of diabetes, e.g., Stitzel et al., Global epigenomic analysis of primary human pancreatic islets provides insights into type 2 diabetes susceptibility loci. Cell Metab, 12: 443-455 (2010) , and conducting experiments to determine how the progeria mutation in the lamin A gene damages cells and prompts them to age prematurely, e.g., Cao et al., Progerin and telomere dysfunction collaborate to trigger cellular senescence in normal human fibroblasts. J Clin Invest, 121: 2833-2844 (2011).

      Finally, with regard to cystic fibrosis, I am happy to bring to your attention that the research community actually has figured out quite precisely how defects in the CFTR gene cause disease, and that knowledge recently has been used to engineer an effective targeted drug, called ivacaftor. This is a profoundly exciting development.

  11. This is a wonderful idea and hopefully the public will be able to see why investing in research and technology in this country is so import and vital for our future.

  12. Thank you for serving the general public in this way. Your writing is accessible and inviting. I will certainly get a kick out of reading what catches your attention and why. All the best sorting through the many possible topics!

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