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Harold Varmus to Leave NCI

Harold Varmus, the director of the National Cancer Institute, will be stepping down from his position at the end of the month, according to the National Institutes of Health.

"It has been our great fortune to have Harold at the helm of the NCI," says NIH Director Francis Collins in a statement. "His breadth and depth of expertise in biomedical research is unparalleled, and he's been a tremendous colleague to me and invaluable to the agency."

Varmus, who received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1989, has led NCI since 2010, and during his time as NCI director, he created the NCI's Center for Global Health, started an initiative to search for drugs targeting the cell signaling pathway controlled by the RAS oncogene, developed the cancer portion of the Precision Medicine Initiative, and more.

Prior to serving as NCI director, Varmus was the president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and, before that, director of the National Institutes of Health.

In a letter to the NCI community, Varmus says he will be returning to New York and a lab at Weill-Cornell Medical College and will work with New York Genome Center.

While highlighting some of NCI's recent accomplishments, Varmus also notes that the last few years have not been without their challenges.

"We have endured losses in real as well as adjusted dollars; survived the threats and reality of government shutdowns; and have not yet recovered all the funds that sequestration has taken away," he says. "This experience has been especially vivid to those of us who have lived in better times, when NIH was the beneficiary of strong budgetary growth."

Doug Lowy, the current deputy director, will serve as acting director of the NCI, beginning in April.