In the middle of the busiest season of his career, working 100 hours a week to rally the country’s medical response to coronavirus, National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins has been awarded the world’s top honor in faith and science.
This year’s $1.3 million Templeton Prize goes to the American geneticist and physician who led the Human Genome Project and established the BioLogos Foundation, an organization that promotes harmony between the Christian faith and evolution.
“It’s a bit overwhelming,” Collins, 70, said in an interview with Christianity Today. “The timing is pretty stunning because I’m totally immersed right now to try to develop treatments, vaccines, and testing for COVID-19.”
The government’s leading expert in biomedicine was selected for the prestigious award based on his research and service as a scientist, official, and public intellectual.
In a statement, Heather Templeton Dill, president of the John Templeton Foundation and the granddaughter of its namesake benefactor, said Collins has “encouraged greater curiosity, open-mindedness, and humility among scientists and religious believers with the aim of illuminating a pathway toward, as he has written, ‘a sober and intellectually honest integration’ of the scientific and spiritual perspectives.”
Appointed by President Barack Obama in 2008 and asked to remain by President Donald Trump, Collins is the longest-serving NIH director.
“If my calling was to try to use the tools of science to reduce the human suffering, this is an amazing job,” said Collins, who was enlisted last week to join the White House coronavirus task force. “The job is probably the best job in the world to make those dreams come true.”
During the pandemic, he has been working from his home office in Maryland, where he has a copy of Psalm 46 printed out on by his desk: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”