The annual prize, which includes a monetary award of £1.1 million ($1.22 million), honors individuals whose achievements have advanced the late Sir John Templeton's philanthropic vision of harnessing science to explore the deepest questions of the universe and humankind's place and purpose within it.
Home-schooled until the age of 10 on a farm in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, Collins received a bachelor of science degree in chemistry from the University of Virginia, a PhD in physical chemistry from Yale, and a medical degree from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. From 1993 to 2008, he served as director of the National Center for Human Genome Research, where he led the Human Genome Project to successful completion in 2003, and also served as professor of internal medicine and human genetics at the University of Michigan, where he was known as the "gene hunter" for his pioneering technique of pinpointing disease-related genes. His research groups have instrumental in, among other things, the discovery of gene mutations responsible for cystic fibrosis, Huntington's disease, neurofibromatosis, and Hutchinson-Guilford progeria syndrome, a rare form of premature aging. In 2009, the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Collins as director of the National Institutes of Health. Since early 2020, Collins and his NIH colleagues have been focused on accelerating treatments and a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, Collins recounts his journey from agnosticism to atheism to Christian belief and explores how modern science and robust personal faith can reinforce each other.
"As I write this, almost my every waking moment is consumed by the effort to find treatments and a vaccine for COVID-19," said Collins. "The elegant complexity of human biology constantly creates in me a sense of awe. Yet I grieve at the suffering and death I see all around, and at times I confess I am assailed by doubts about how a loving God would permit such tragedies. But then I remember that the God who hung on the cross is intimately familiar with suffering. I learn and re-learn that God never promised freedom from suffering — but rather to be 'our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble' (Psalm 46)."
"In his role as a scientist, government official, and public intellectual, Francis Collins has used his platform to engage groups of diverse perspectives and 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," said Templeton Foundation president Heather Templeton Dill. "Dr. Collins embodies the ideals and core convictions that inspired my grandfather, Sir John Templeton, to establish the Templeton Prize in 1972: that rigorous research, especially in the sciences, can help humanity confront the deepest and most challenging questions of existence."
Collins's research groups have been responsible for the discovery of gene mutations responsible for cystic fibrosis, Huntington's disease, neurofibromatosis, and Hutchinson-Guilford progeria syndrome, a rare form of premature aging….