Professor Francis Collins, the Christian geneticist who famously led 'The Human Genome Project,' has said he is hopeful about developing a successful vaccine to protect people against Covid-19.
Speaking to the BBC's religion editor Martin Bashir, Collins, who has served as the director of The National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 2009 and is effectively responsible for the development of a vaccine, revealed that he had recently been asked to join the White House Coronavirus Task Force to help the Government combat the disease.
As the head of the NIH — a United States government agency responsible for biomedical and public health research — Collins said that he was prepared to "say the truth" to President Trump even if he disagreed with it, following the example of leading immunologist and government adviser, Dr. Tony Fauci.
Dr. Fauci, who has become a prominent public figure in the fight against coronavirus, was a "truth-teller who is incapable of doing anything except saying exactly what we do know and what we don't know," Collins said, adding that he spoke to the long-serving public health official "every night about how we are doing in terms of COVID-19."
Of his role on the task force, Collins said: "Every chance I have to say what we can say confidently about this disease, I'm going to say it. My job is to say the truth as I know it, and that doesn't have to get altered by the environment I'm in at the time."
When asked about how confident he is about beating coronavirus, Collins, who won the prestigious "Templeton Prize" last week, said he was "worried in the short term" but "optimistic" in the long term.
"I'm worried in the short term if by sheer exhaustion... from all of this physical distancing and requirements to stay at home... people simply get tired of it and leaders feel like they can't sustain it anymore," he said.
"In the longterm, I am optimistic. I think this is a disease where a vaccine ought to work.. I'm hopeful in regard," Collins added. "I hope everyone else feels that sense as well... even as we're all fearful and anxious and grieving about what's around us... that we keep that sense of hope."
"Because if there's one thing more infectious than virus, it's hope."