On most days, Francis S. Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, coordinates with genome centers around the world and evaluates ethical, legal, and social implications of the project that made him famous. But Collins reserves this day in late July for the passion that brought him to the institute in the first place: research to identify which of the human body's 35,000 genes causes Type 2 diabetes. Assembled around a table in the vaccine center of the National Institutes of Health, a half-dozen researchers discuss DNA samples from tral pool makes people fairly homogeneous at the genetic level. Collins rests an elbow on the table and a chin on his hand. He leans forward, his brow furrowing with a question, his blue eyes darting over data tables.

In this room of simple chairs and bare walls, Francis Collins--trailblazing scientist, cartographer of the human genome--meets Francis Collins,...

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