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Harold E. Varmus: Wikis


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Harold E. Varmus

Harold E. Varmus, 2007
Born December 18, 1939 (1939-12-18) (age 70)
Oceanside, New York
Nationality American
Fields cellular biology
Alma mater Amherst College
Harvard University
Columbia University
Known for retroviral oncogenes
Notable awards 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Harold Elliot Varmus (born December 18, 1939) is an American Nobel prize winning scientist. He was a co-recipient (along with J. Michael Bishop) of the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovery of the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes.

He has been designated as one of co-chairs of the Council of Advisors on Science and Technology to serve in the Obama administration.



Varmus was born to Jewish parents of Eastern European descent in Oceanside, New York.[1] In 1957, he enrolled at Amherst College, intending to follow in his father's footsteps as a medical doctor, but eventually graduating with a B.A. in English literature.[2] He went on to earn a graduate degree in English at Harvard University in 1962 before changing his mind once again and applying to medical schools.[3] That same year, he entered the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and later worked at a missionary hospital in Bareilly, India and the Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital.[4] Seeking to avoid the draft for the Vietnam War, Varmus joined the Public Health Service at the National Institutes of Health in 1968.[5] Working under Ira Pastan, he researched the regulation of bacterial gene expression by cyclic AMP. In 1970, he began post-doctoral studies in Bishop's lab at University of California, San Francisco.[6] There, he and Bishop performed the oncogene research that would win them the Nobel Prize. He became a faculty member at UCSF in 1972 and a professor in 1979.[7]

From 1993 to 1999, he served as Director of the National Institutes of Health. As the NIH director, Varmus was credited with nearly doubling the research agency's budget.[8] Since January, 2000, he has served as President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. He is also the Chairman of the Geoffrey Beene Cancer Research Center at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

On January 12, 2010, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center announced that Varmus "has asked the MSKCC Boards of Overseers and Managers to begin a search for his successor." The announcement also stated, "Varmus indicated that he plans to continue in his present position until a successor has been identified, and he will remain the head of his laboratory in the Cancer Biology and Genetics Program at the Sloan-Kettering Institute and an active member of the teaching faculty."

Beginning during his tenure as NIH director, Varmus has been a champion of an open access system for scientific papers, arguing that scientists should have control over the dissemination of their research rather than journal editors.[9] He has advocated a system in which journals make their articles freely available on PubMed Central six months after publication.[10] He is co-founder and chairman of the board of directors of the Public Library of Science, a not-for-profit open access publisher, and he also sits on the board of trustees of BioMed Central, the largest publisher of open-access journals. He currently serves on the advisory boards of the Campaign to Defend the Constitution, an organization dedicated to opposing the religious right, and Scientists and Engineers for America, an organization focused on promoting sound science in American government.

He is also a recipient of 2001 National Medal of Science.

Dr. Varmus serves on the board of the Science Initiative Group.


Private Life

Varmus is an avid bicyclist and an Advisory Committee member of Transportation Alternatives the New York City-based advocacy group for pedestrians and cyclists. He is also a runner, rower, and fisherman. He has been married to Constance Casey since 1969 and has two sons, Jacob and Christopher. He and his son Jacob, a trumpet player, have performed a series of concerts entitled "Genes and Jazz" at the Guggenheim and the Smithsonian.


Varmus endorsed then-United States Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) for the 2008 Presidential Elections.[1] He has been selected as one of co-chairs of the Council of Advisors on Science and Technology to serve in the Obama administration.


  • ^ Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1989, Editor Tore Frängsmyr, Nobel Foundation, Stockholm, 1990.
  • ^ Jamie Shreeve. "Free Radical." Wired Magazine. June 2006. Issue 14.06. [11]
  1. ^ Nicholas Thompson: Harold Varmus Endorses Obama February 03, 2008

External links


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