Thursday, July 16, 2020
Flossie Wong-Staal — a pioneering former NIH scientist, a major figure in the discovery of HIV, and the first to clone that virus — died on July 8, 2020. She was 73 years old.
Flossie arrived at the NIH as a Visiting Fellow in 1973 and began working in the National Cancer Institute (NCI) lab of Robert Gallo, who was on the cusp of a remarkable string of discoveries. Flossie, with her Ph.D. from UCLA in molecular biology, became the ideal complement to Bob Gallo's medical-based scientific intuition, and the two would go on to co-author more than 100 journal articles over the next 20 years.
Thursday, February 6, 2020
Our friend and former colleague Phil Leder, among the world's most accomplished molecular geneticists, died on Sunday, February 2, at age 85. His work with Marshall Nirenberg — namely, the famed Nirenberg and Leder experiments starting at the NIH in 1964, which definitively elucidated the triplet nature of the genetic code and culminated in its full deciphering — helped set the stage for the revolution in molecular genetic research that Phil himself would continue to lead for the next three decades.
Thursday, June 7, 2018
Like many research institutions across the nation, the NIH has faced difficulties with establishing a strong and lasting community of diverse investigators. We have made remarkable gains in recent years, however, in attracting and retaining a diverse workforce that's more reflective of the U.S. population.
One of many movers and shakers in this realm is Hannah Valantine, a cardiologist recruited from Stanford University who, in addition to maintaining a lab in NHLBI, is the NIH's first Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity. And one of her many ideas that the NIH Scientific Directors hope to adopt is the creation of a cohort program with both mentors and mentees committed to issues of scientific diversity and inclusion. Our goal is to guide this cohort of tenure-track investigators through the tenure process to be sure they have access to the mentoring, professional development, and networking opportunities to establish their careers, strengthen their science, and, in turn, recruit and mentor future generations of scientists.
Monday, June 4, 2018
The NIH Lasker Clinical Research Scholar Program, an initiative to support early-stage clinical researchers, has reached a milestone. First announced in December 2010, the program provides scholars with up to ten years of support: five to seven years as NIH tenure-track investigators, followed by three years additional funding at an extramural research institution, pending review, if they choose to leave the NIH. Our goal was to recruit a few scholars each year and have a “steady state” of 15 to 20 scholars on campus. We indeed are now up to 15 scholars, which meets this goal.
Thursday, May 31, 2018
A fascinating statistic crossed my desk this month: Among U.S.-based institutions, the NIH has the highest representation of women scientists and engineers on filed international patent applications. I can believe it, and there’s a report documenting it from the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO), a UN-affiliated organization.
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Theodor Kolobow, M.D., passed away on March 24, 2018. He was 87 years old. His contributions while at the NHLBI to the field of cardiovascular and pulmonary research fall nothing short of extraordinary, and include advancements in the development of artificial organs, and the pathophysiology of acute lung injury. Over the course of his career he was actively involved in the innovation and development of new dialysis machines, cuffless endotracheal tubes, and devices to prop open right-sided heart valves, thereby preventing left heart distention during percutaneous cardiopulmonary bypass. He designed special low-resistance endotracheal tubes to limit the necessary ventilatory pressure, in addition to endotracheal tubes that would help to limit bacterial colonization and methods for preventing ventilator associated pneumonias.
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
NIH history is rife with legends, scientists who have made remarkable discoveries and incalculable contributions to the health and longevity of humankind. There are living legends; just peruse the “Honors” page on the IRP website to see what I mean. And there are greats who are gone but certainly not forgotten.
Monday, May 21, 2018
James F. Holland, M.D., a renowned cancer expert who was a major figure in the development of cancer chemotherapy, died on March 22, 2018, at the age of 92. Dr. Holland was among the first group of research physicians recruited to the NIH Clinical Center, serving as a senior surgeon at the National Cancer Institute from 1953 to 1954. In that short year at the NIH, he initiated a clinical trial to compare continuous or intermittent treatment with two chemotherapy agents for acute leukemia in children: methotrexate and 6-mercaptopurine. Dr. Holland moved to Roswell Park Memorial Institute in Buffalo before the trial was completed, but he continued to collaborate. His work ultimately turned an incurable illness into one with an 80% survival rate. In 1972, he and his NIH collaborators shared the Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award for "outstanding contribution to the concept and application of combination therapy in the treatment of acute leukemia in children."
Tuesday, January 9, 2018
We’ve had a few changes on our Board of Scientific Directors in the past year, so I thought I’d give you an update. Each NIH Institute or Center (IC) with an intramural program has a scientific director (SD). The NCI, NIAID, NLM, and NIEHS are programmatically diverse and require additional leaders with SD functions. So, although 24 ICs have principal SDs, there are actually 30 people who function as scientific directors.
These SDs are responsible for the intramural budgets of their institutes. Most run their own labs. They also have numerous other responsibilities, which include:
Tuesday, October 24, 2017
There are many ways to categorize the research performed at the NIH Intramural Research Program: biomedical or behavioral; computational, basic, translational, or clinical; excellent or outstanding; wow or double-wow; and so on. When we launched the irp.nih.gov website, we utilized the concept of scientific focus areas, or SFAs, and identified 21 such SFAs at the IRP, from biomedical engineering & biophysics to virology.
We thought the 21 SFAs did a rather nice job of summing up all the diverse science in the IRP. Then along comes RNA biology. It's not as if the field is new; some 30 Nobel Prizes have been won involving RNA over the decades. But the field has had a renaissance in recent years with discoveries such as that of noncoding RNA (ncRNA) functioning in genome defense and chromosome inactivation. Newly revealed classes of RNAs and their remarkable functions are poised to revolutionize molecular biology, with profound implications for clinical sciences.