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Bush Administration May Tap Johns Hopkins Dean to Run NIH

NEW YORK, March 7 - After two rudderless years, the US National Institutes of Health will probably soon have an official chief, Bush administration officials disclosed on Wednesday.


The White House is expected to nominate Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Dean Elias Zerhouni to the post as soon as next week.


Zerhouni, the medical school's executive vice dean, is a radiologist. He is recognized for his work in applying advanced CT and MRI techniques to cancer and cardiovascular disease.


He has said that the human genome project creates new opportunities and obligations for collaboration between universities and private enterprise, and was involved in proposing a new biotech park for East Baltimore last year.  "Neither industries nor universities can succeed if they don't work together," he  said at that time, as quoted in the Baltimore Sun.

Originally from Algeria, Zerhouni joined Johns Hopkins in 1975 after receiving his MD from the University of Algiers. He became director of Hopkins' MRI division  in 1988, and chair of the radiology department in 1996.


Zerhouni is also co-founder of a company called Surgi-Vision, which develops new devices for high-resolution images of heart, ear, nose, blood vessels, prostate, lungs, and other organs.


If named as expected, Zerhouni would still need to be confirmed by Congress, where political controversies over stem-cell research and cloning could complicate his candidacy. Though he has backed stem-cell research in the past and helped launch Hopkins' Institute for Cell Engineering, he has not publicly indicated his position on cloning.


The NIH has been without a permanent commissioner since 1999, when Harold Varmus left to run Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. The potential nomination was first reported in Wednesday's Washington Post.


The appointment would fill one of four critical personnel gaps in the top ranks of health and science policy: The US Food and Drug Administration has not had a commissioner since last year, the US Centers for Disease Control will soon have no director, and the position of US Surgeon General is also unfilled.

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