Zerhouni exits as director of NIH

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Elias A. Zerhouni, MD, the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and a former executive at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, will step down at the end of October. A replacement has not been named.

Zerhouni said he will “pursue writing projects and explore other professional opportunities.”

Modern Healthcare reported that his decision to leave was based on the conclusion of his tenure. He said the decision to leave prior to the elections signaled that he was not interested in continuing in his role as NIH director. In addition, “I wanted to allow people [within the NIH] to prepare for the transition” sooner rather than later, following the elections and the establishment of a new administration, he explained.

He also said that his departure had no direct connection to a probe requested by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who called for an investigation into whether government health officials violated a policy meant to stem conflicts of interest at the NIH. The probe was sought by Grassley, the Senate Finance Committee’s ranking member, after a medical adviser was found to have retained ties to both an academic medical center and a cardiac device vendor, Modern Healthcare reported.

At the Bethesda, Md.-based NIH, Zerhouni oversaw the agency’s 27 institutes that employ more than 18,000 people and have a combined budget of $29.5 billion. It supports more than 325,000 researcher personnel at more than 3,100 institutions throughout the U.S. and globally.

He spearheaded the launch of several biotech research initiatives and headed a number of NIH Roadmap efforts, a series of strategic plans to guide medical research. He also worked to lower barriers between disciplines of science and encourage trans-NIH collaborations, the NIH said.