Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., director of the NIH, has decided to resign at the end of October. Dr. Zerhouni says that he will pursue writing projects and explore other opportunities.
“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,” notes 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.”
Dr. Zerhouni, a physician scientist and radiology researcher, served as NIH director for just over six years. The NIH points out that one of the hallmarks of his tenure was the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, launched in 2003. The Roadmap brought together all 27 NIH institutes and centers to fund research initiatives that could have a major impact on science but that no single institute could tackle alone.
Dr. Zerhouni also launched new programs to encourage high-risk innovative research such as the Director's Pioneer Awards and New Innovator Awards. He especially focused on to supporting new investigators and fostering interdisciplinary research. For example, he inspired the NIH Strategic Plan for Obesity Research and the Neuroscience Blueprint.
Dr. Zerhouni time at the NIH also came when the concept of translational medicine was taking root in the U.S. 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.
“I have had the privilege of leading one of the greatest institutions in the world for six and a half years,” Dr. Zerhouni says. “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.”