Elias A. Zerhouni, MD, the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2008, 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. 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 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, he worked to lower barriers between disciplines of science and encourage trans-NIH collaborations. Dr. 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.
Raynard S. Kington, deputy director of NIH, is expected to serve as the agency’s interim director for the remainder of the Bush administration.