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BU recognizes two distinguished professors

BOSTON – Health law and bioethics authority George Annas, and bioengineer and inventor James Collins, were named the first William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professors at Boston University for their outstanding contributions to teaching and research, announced BU President Robert A. Brown.

Instituted in 2008 and named for BU’s first president (1873-1903), each appointee receives an endowed chair supported by the William Fairfield Warren fund.

“The exceptional contributions of George Annas and Jim Collins certainly fit the high standards envisioned when we created the Warren Professorships,” said Brown. “Congratulations to Professors Annas and Collins on this recognition of their contributions to Boston University.”

The Warren Professorships were established on the recommendation of an ad hoc committee of the Faculty Council as a way of recognizing BU’s most pre-eminent faculty. In making their recommendations to President Brown, the committee took into consideration the research, scholarship, teaching, and service of each of the nominees.

Annas is the Edward R. Utley Professor and chair of the Department of Health Law, Bioethics & Human Rights in the School of Public Health, and a professor in both the School of Medicine and the School of Law. He earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School and an M.P.H. from Harvard School of Public Health, where he was a Joseph P. Kennedy Fellow in Medical Ethics. After graduating from law school, Annas clerked for Justice John V. Spalding of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and came to BU in 1972 as the director of the Center for Law and Health Sciences at the Law School.

Annas said the award “should be seen as an honor to my colleagues in the department of health law, bioethics, and human rights, as much as to me. It is my privilege to work with the incredibly talented faculty on both campuses of Boston University. I have had consistent support for my not always uncontroversial research and advocacy in health law, bioethics, and human rights.”

He is the author or editor of 16 books on health law and bioethics, and has been characterized as "the father of patient rights." He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Committee on Health Rights and Bioethics, and a member of the Committee on Human Rights of the National Academies. Annas is the cofounder of Global Lawyers and Physicians, a transnational professional association of lawyers and physicians collaborating to promote human rights and health. He has also held a variety of government regulatory posts.

Collins, a founder of the emerging field of synthetic biology and a leader in systems biology, is a professor of Biomedical Engineering at the College of Engineering and BU’s first Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, a prestigious position he holds concurrently with his university appointment. A co-founder and co-director of the Center for BioDynamics, Collins is a Rhodes Scholar who earned a doctorate in Medical Engineering from Oxford. A member of the BU Biomedical Engineering faculty since 1990, he has been recognized as the Biomedical Engineering Teacher of the Year and the Professor of the Year at the College of Engineering, and he has won BU’s Metcalf Cup & Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

His research has led to the development of novel bioengineering devices and techniques, while making innovative contributions at multiple biological scales. He has 130 archival publications, and has 10 issued patents and 15 pending patents. He has been named a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. Collins won the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, the Ellison Medical Foundation Senior Scholar Award, and the Scientific American 50 Award, given to 50 outstanding leaders in research, industry, and politics. He is a 2003 recipient of a MacArthur Fellows Program award.

Described by the MacArthur Fellows Program as “a scientist who crosses the boundaries of engineering, mathematics, and biology to explore the complex mechanisms regulating biological systems,” Collins draws on both theory and experiment for his innovative research into understanding how the human body works.

“I am delighted and very appreciative to be selected as one of the first Warren Professors,” said Collins, who was just named the recipient of Drexel University’s inaugural Anthony J. Drexel Exceptional Achievement Award, which comes with a $100,000 prize and recognizes “a member of a U.S. institution whose work transforms both research and the society it serves."

“My academic career has benefited tremendously from Boston University’s support and celebration of high-risk interdisciplinary work," he said. "I look forward to continuing such work and teaching BU students for many years to come.”

Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research. With more than 30,000 students, it is the fourth largest independent university in the United States. BU consists of 17 colleges and schools along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the school’s research and teaching mission.

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