Director Robert Stevenson takes its mission beyond keeper of the country's microbes to attract key researchers and funding
ROCKVILLE, MD. - Like a headmaster looking after a huge dormitory of slumbering schoolboys, Robert Stevenson watches over 50,000 microbes suspended in a sleep of absolute biochemical inactivity. As director of the American Type Culture Collection, the 64-year-old bacteriologist provides scientists with clean, well characterized cultures of yeasts and fungi, monoclonal antibodies, and tumor cells.

For the past decade Stevenson has worked hard to convince his most important patron, the National Institutes of Health in nearby Bethesda, that the collection, created one year before he was born, is still carrying out its original four functions: to acquire, preserve, authenticate, and distribute microbial cultures.

Robert L. Stevenson does not look the part of a fastidious librarian of bacterial and cell cultures. His shirt is rumpled; his suede shoes, scuffed. With his relaxed demeanor...

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