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Zerhouni resigns as NIH head

The 15th head of the National Institutes of Health, linkurl:Elias Zerhouni,;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/42733/ will step down from his post, he announced today (Sept 24). In a conference call with reporters today, Zerhouni said that he would be leaving NIH at the end of October as a part of what he called "the natural cycle of tenures for this position." "It's with mixed emotions that I move on," he said. President George W. Bush linkurl:appointed;http://www.the-scientist.com/ar

By | September 24, 2008

The 15th head of the National Institutes of Health, linkurl:Elias Zerhouni,;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/42733/ will step down from his post, he announced today (Sept 24). In a conference call with reporters today, Zerhouni said that he would be leaving NIH at the end of October as a part of what he called "the natural cycle of tenures for this position." "It's with mixed emotions that I move on," he said. President George W. Bush linkurl:appointed;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/13166/ Zerhouni in May 2002, on the tail end of a five year NIH budget doubling. These halcyon days at NIH led Zerhouni to craft the linkurl:"NIH Roadmap for Medical Research,";http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/14454/ a sweeping $2 billion, five-year plan meant to invigorate the biomedical enterprise through focusing NIH resources on bioinformatics, systems and structural biology, genomic database establishment, and nanomedicine projects, encouraging cross-disciplinary collaboration, and funding clinical and translational research. "I think it's clear that science has changed tremendously with the explosion of discoveries," Zerhouni said on the conference call. The Roadmap will likely form the base of Zerhouni's legacy at NIH, but he saw the agency through his fair share of controversy and turmoil as well. On Zerhouni's watch the NIH budget plateaued, and federal funding of the agency remains level today. He also watched the success rates for new R01 grants linkurl:plummet;http://www.the-scientist.com/2008/9/1/30/1/ from about 18% in 2002 to about 9% in 2005. Zerhouni received criticism for his appointment of David Schwartz, former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, who linkurl:resigned;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54296/ from his post earlier this year amid allegations of mismanagement and misconduct. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) corresponded frequently with Zerhouni regarding NIH-funded scientists who the Senator alleged improperly disclosed financial ties to industry. Prior to his appointment as head of NIH, the Algerian-born radiologist was the executive vice-dean of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a professor of radiology and biomedical engineering there and at Eastern Virginia Medical School. Zerhouni said today that he doesn't "have a job lined up," and that he plans on resting before transitioning into a new position. "I wanted to take some time out," he said.
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Avatar of: Marilyn Walker

Marilyn Walker

Posts: 5

September 24, 2008

Research!America responds to the news of the resignation of National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Elias Zerhouni, MD:\n\nThe Honorable John Edward Porter, Research!America chair and former Illinois Congressman, said, "Our country owes Elias Zerhouni a tremendous debt of gratitude for his outstanding public service. He has guided NIH through its most difficult period-six years of stagnant budgets and challenges to the independence of science. \n\nRead the rest at www.researchamerica.org
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 23

September 24, 2008

Zerhouni's stepdown cannot be better news for the scientific community at this difficult time of economy. He failed to realize the importance of funding more labs. Instead, he made a huge mistake by claiming to 'fund the best science' and by enriching the limited resource into the hands of a few elite (his friends, perhaps). \n\nWho has the right to judge the 'best' science? In history, not all significant breakthroughs in science were done in large universities or at HHMI labs. Roadmaps are his version of 'bridge to nowhere'. Smile, Palin!\n\nIf he gives up on regular universities (which I believe he did), there will be snowball effects on the future of our educational systems and biomedical research. Bright students may be discouraged from pursuing biomedical research when they see how their professors are struggling. \n\nAnother mistake that he made was to pursue medical research by ignoring basic sciences. Who made the most advance towards understanding cancer? Cell biologists who study cell cycle regulation and cell signaling, not by cancer biologists! Just think again next time when NIH wants to stress the 'H'.\n\nThere is no time for complaining (thus this article is not). The next NIH Director must correct the mistakes made by Zerhouni and bring research back to the right tract. Here is my wish list:\n\n1. Support as many researchers as possible; \n2. Cancel all center and program grants (these in reality do not work);\n3. Support both basic and clinical research.\n4. Limit the number of RO1s in a lab. Why do somebody have 5-10 RO1s while many good folks cannot even get one? Are they truly that better than the rest of us?\n\n bZz\n\n
Avatar of: ROBERT HARRISON

ROBERT HARRISON

Posts: 6

September 24, 2008

The trend (under Zerhouni's watch) for NIH to bias funding from individual research grants to more grandiose schemes (programs and already enormous groupings) is a common evolution in many science jurisdictions. \n\nHere in Canada, we are seeing a similar switch of funds away from the individual generators of new ideas to large "collaborations" (at least on paper) and high price infrastructure. Increasing difficulty in getting a basic grant funding has has eroded the spirit of many young investigators.\n\nIn the U.K. the MRC went through the same stages (toward big project funding) and then reversed back in favour of individual grants. I hope NIH and federal agencies everywhere get the message.\n\nBob Harrison\nUniversity of Toronto
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

September 24, 2008

the comment from bZz is invaluable and in depth.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 28

September 25, 2008

and new ideas were suppressed because of short of fund on the other hand.\n\nRO1 suppressed creative ideas. R21 became real R01.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 8

September 26, 2008

Zerhouni failed American Science with his Roadmap to nowhere. Millions of dollars of NIH funding directed to screening compounds to make drugs- that's the role of pharma companies. Zerhouni never really understood the process of drug development or creative science. We have seen more promising young scientists exit the stage under Zerhouni then any other NIH director in history. Another poor and devastating choice for the Bush administration. Science was once the major driver of American innovation and a source of pride in our Nation. Bush and Zerhouni squandered this national treasure and demoralized American scientists and the promising scientist from around the world who at one time were anxious to visit our shores to contribute to this great enterprise. Let's hope the next administration actually appoints a skilled scientist/researcher to lead the NIH.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

September 29, 2008

I would like to thank Research America for the article on Dr Zerhouni's departure.

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