President Obama to Appoint Harold Varmus, M.D., to Lead the National Cancer Institute

President Barack Obama announced yesterday his intent to appoint Harold Varmus, M.D., to serve as Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

In an e-mail to the NCI staff, Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the National Institutes of Health, said that Varmus “brings unmatched expertise at all levels — not only in cutting edge scientific research, but also as a leader in the development of strategies for improving patient care, in scientific education and training, and in the design of novel public-private partnerships.”

Varmus Biography

Dr. Varmus, a former Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), co-recipient of the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for studies of the genetic basis of cancer, and recent co-chair of President Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), has served as the President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York City since January 2000. His research career began as a member of the U.S. Public Health Service at the NIH and as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

He then served as a member of the UCSF medical faculty for over twenty years, conducting scientific work on cancer genes and retroviruses. In 1993, President Clinton appointed Varmus to become Director of the NIH, where he guided construction of a new clinical center, strengthened the intramural research program, recruited outstanding leaders, and helped to initiate a doubling of the NIH budget. At MSKCC, Varmus has united clinical care and laboratory activities, expanded faculty and facilities, developed inter-institutional research programs, led a two billion dollar capital campaign, and started a new graduate school in cancer biology.

He recently co-chaired an Institute of Medicine report on The U.S. Commitment to Global Health; is a co-founder and Chairman of the Board of the Public Library of Science, a publisher of open access journals; and chairs the Global Health Advisory Committee at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He has been a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences since 1984 and of the Institute of Medicine since 1991, and he has received the National Medal of Science and the Vannevar Bush Award. Varmus majored in English literature at Amherst College, earned a master's degree in English at Harvard University, received his medical degree from Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, and was trained in internal medicine at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center.

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