By Jebediah Reed
New York Intelligencer
Even before he became the point person in a global effort to find a coronavirus vaccine, Dr. Francis Collins occupied an interesting perch in government. One of the few Obama appointees still serving in a major role in the Trump administration, Collins, who rose to prominence in 1990s as leader of the Human Genome Project, is the head of the National Institutes of Health, the federal government’s gargantuan hub for medical research.
With an annual budget of $42 billion, the NIH is essentially unrivaled in the world as a research center. Among its 20,000 employees is Dr. Anthony Fauci, who runs the division focused on infectious diseases. Fauci was a mentor to Collins when the latter joined the NIH decades ago, and they remain close, talking at length on the phone most evenings. Intelligencer chatted with Collins about the prospects for a coronavirus vaccine — he’s optimistic — and about winning the $1 million Templeton Prize, awarded each year for remarkable work exploring the deepest questions of human existence.