James Wyngaarden, the former director of the US National Institutes of Health has died, according to Duke University School of Medicine. He was 94
Wyngaarden served as NIH director under President Ronald Reagan between 1982 through July 1989. During this time, he had to handle the biomedical research community's response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and grapple with the arrival of recombinant DNA, according to current NIH Director Francis Collins.
Collins also notes that Wyngaarden touched off NIH's leadership role in the international effort to sequence the human genome. "Despite the fact that many biomedical researchers were deeply skeptical, Dr. Wyngaarden made the decision to take the leap," Collins says in a statement. "The consequences of that decision reverberate to the present day."
At Duke, Wyngaarden served as chair of medicine before departing for NIH and, on his return, became associate vice chancellor for health affairs. It notes that his research focused on the regulation of purine biosynthesis and the genetics of gout.