This story has been updated from a previous version to include comment from the Biotechnology Industry Organization.
NEW YORK, March 26 - President George W. Bush on Tuesday nominated a top administrator at Johns Hopkins University of Medicine to lead the National Institutes of Health.
If approved by the Senate, Elias Zerhouni, executive vice dean at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, will take the helm of an agency that has been leaderless for more than two years.
In a statement released shortly after 2:00 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, Health and Human Service Secretary Tommy Thompson called Zerhouni, 50, "a leader who understands ... the unprecedented convergence of science and technology ... and who has experience creating the kind of research efforts and teams that pursue and find answers to some of the great medical mysteries we face today."
Since Harold Varmus left the post, the Bush administration has struggled to find a replacement. Six institutes within the NIH also need directors, positions that should be filled once the president's pick for the top slot has been approved.
Zerhouni "has a clear understanding of the relationship between science, academia, and industry that will serve NIH and its institutes well," Thompson said. "He is a proven manager, well prepared to lead NIH through a time of great expansion and challenge."
Commenting on the nomination, Carl Feldbaum, president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, said: "With the cracking of the human genetic code, the NIH ... and our industry are poised to work together to usher in a new era of medicine only dreamed of just a few years ago."