Harold Varmus, MD, Steps Down as NCI Director, Douglas Lowy, MD, Named Acting Director


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Harold Varmus, MD

Douglas Lowy, MD

Harold Varmus, MD, who has led the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for nearly 5 years, has announced that he will step down from his post, effective March 31, 2015.

“It has been our great fortune to have Dr. Varmus at the helm of the NCI,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD. “His breadth and depth of expertise in biomedical research are unparalleled, and he’s been a tremendous colleague, invaluable to the agency.”

Douglas Lowy, MD, who currently serves as the Deputy Director, will become Acting Director for NCI, beginning April 1, 2015. Dr. Lowy is a longtime NCI intramural researcher. He received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Obama in 2014 for his research that led to the development of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

Dr. Varmus to Join Weill Cornell

Dr. Harold Varmus will join Weill Cornell Medical College’s faculty as the Lewis Thomas University Professor of Medicine, effective April 1. In conjunction with his appointment at Weill Cornell, Dr. Varmus will team up with the New York Genome Center as a Senior Associate Core Member to promote the use of cancer genomics throughout the New York region.

In his new position at Weill Cornell, Dr. Varmus will continue to conduct research on fundamental aspects of cancer, in collaboration with investigators at the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center, led by Meyer Director Lewis C. Cantley

“This is a remarkable time in cancer research, Dr. Varmus said. “Technological advances have enabled scientists to conduct comprehensive genomic studies that are revealing detailed portraits of cancer cells, sparking new opportunities to develop next-generation therapies, diagnostics, and prevention strategies. I’m excited to join Weill Cornell Medical College and the New York Genome Center as we strive to reduce the burden of cancer and enhance human health in New York and around the world.”

Dr. Varmus will also serve as a senior advisor to Laurie H. Glimcher, MD, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell and provost for medical affairs for Cornell University, and will have an appointment in the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences. 

Career Highlights

Dr. Varmus has had a longstanding association with NIH, dating back to 1968–1970 when, as a young Public Health Service Officer, he studied bacterial gene expression with Ira Pastan, MD, who is currently Chief of NCI’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology.

In 1989, Dr. Varmus was Corecipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for “discovery of the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes.” From 1993–1999, he served as the Director of NIH under President Bill Clinton. After leaving NIH and before returning to run NCI in 2010, Dr. Varmus served as President of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Before President Barack Obama appointed Dr. Varmus to lead NCI, he named him Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. ■


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