BETHESDA, Md., Sept. 24 Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., the director of the National Institutes of Health, today announced his plans to step down at the end of October 2008 to pursue writing projects and explore other professional opportunities.
Dr. Zerhouni, a physician scientist and world-renowned leader in radiology research, has served as NIH director since May 2002. He led the agency through a challenging period that required innovative solutions to transform basic and clinical research into tangible benefits for patients and their families. One of the hallmarks of his tenure is the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, launched in 2003, after extensive consultations with the scientific community. The NIH Roadmap brought together all of the NIH 27 Institutes and Centers to fund compelling research initiatives that could have a major impact on science, but that no single institute could tackle alone. Additional information about the NIH Roadmap can be found at www.nihroadmap.nih.gov.
Dr. Zerhouni also launched new programs to encourage high-risk innovative research, such as the Director's Pioneer Awards and New Innovator Awards, and focused especially on the need to support new investigators and foster their independence. During his tenure, Zerhouni worked to lower barriers between disciplines of science and encourage trans-NIH collaborations. For example, he inspired significant interdisciplinary efforts such as the NIH Strategic Plan for Obesity Research and the Neuroscience Blueprint.
Zerhouni also led a major reform of the translational and clinical research system in the United States. He also worked to improve public access to scientific information. These efforts, along with his continual advocacy for the public's investment in the NIH, greatly contributed to Congress passing the NIH Reform Act of 2006, which was a sign of renewed confidence in the NIH. (For more detailed information, see a listing of key accomplishments attached to this release.)
"I have had the privilege of leading one of the greatest institutions in the world for six and a half years," Dr. Zerhouni said. "NIH's strength comes from the extraordinary commitment and excellence of its people in serving a noble mission. It also comes from the nation's scientific community, whose discoveries alleviate the suffering of patients throughout the world. Over the past six years, we experienced a revolution in the biomedical sciences and I feel fortunate to have been part of it. I will miss the NIH and all my colleagues, not only for their friendship and support through 'thick and thin,' but also for their essential role in the progress we made in advancing innovative research, fostering scientific collaboration, supporting young scientists, and enhancing basic, translational, and clinical research, despite great challenges."
"Elias has been a powerful voice for the medical research community as head of the NIH. His tenure has been marked by the spirit of collaboration, good management and transformation. The Roadmap for Medical Research that he developed and implemented will benefit the health of this nation for many years to come," said Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael O. Leavitt. "His many achievements include promotion of genetic research, support for advances of biodefense research and helping raise awareness of women's heart disease. I want to thank Elias for his leadership and wish him the best of luck as he begins this new chapter."
NIH is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and is the nation's premiere biomedical research agency. The agency has more than 18,000 employees and a fiscal year 2008 budget of $29.5 billion. It supports more than 325,000 researcher personnel at more than 3,100 institutions throughout the United States, and around the world.