Note: On April 23, 2012, Dr. Kaiser withdrew his candidacy for personal reasons.
National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., today announced the selection of Chris A. Kaiser, Ph.D., as the new director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Kaiser, a leader in cell biology, is professor and head of the Department of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He expects to start his new position in the spring of 2012.
“Dr. Kaiser has tremendous energy and enthusiasm for research and training—two key components of the NIGMS mission—that make him ideal for this position,” said Collins. “His scientific vision, leadership skills and collaborative spirit are essential assets that will help him guide the Institute during this era of great opportunity.”
Kaiser will replace Judith H. Greenberg, Ph.D., who became acting director of NIGMS in July 2011 after the departure of Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D., who had served as director since 2003.
“Dr. Greenberg is an exceptional leader, and I thank her for this service to NIGMS and NIH,” said Collins.
As NIGMS director, Kaiser will oversee the Institute’s $2 billion budget, which primarily funds basic research in the areas of cell biology, biophysics, genetics, developmental biology, pharmacology, physiology, biological chemistry, bioinformatics and computational biology. NIGMS supports more than 4,500 research grants—about 10 percent of those funded by NIH as a whole—as well as a substantial amount of research training and programs designed to increase the diversity of the biomedical and behavioral research workforce.
“In taking this position, I feel a compelling call to duty for national service and to be an advocate for the basic research enterprise,” said Kaiser. “For 50 years, NIGMS has laid the foundation for important medical advances, and I’m excited to build on these efforts.”
Kaiser’s research uses genetic, biochemical and structural biology methods to understand the basic mechanisms of protein folding and intracellular transport, molecular processes essential to normal cell function. His efforts have led to the identification of numerous genes and related mutations involved in these processes. Kaiser is particularly interested in determining how secreted and other proteins form disulfide bonds, which are important for protein folding and stability. To study these questions, Kaiser uses yeast, a model organism for investigating mammalian genetics.
Kaiser has been an NIGMS grantee since 1992.
An initiative Kaiser said he’s particularly eager to join is the Institute’s effort to build and sustain a strong and diverse scientific workforce, as outlined in the recent NIGMS strategic plan for research training. “Fostering scientific careers and improving workforce diversity are critical to research progress, and NIGMS has really taken a lead in this arena,” said Kaiser, who oversaw an effort that increased graduate student diversity within the MIT biology department from 5 to 18 percent over 6 years.
Kaiser joined the MIT faculty in 1991 and became a full professor in 2002. He has chaired the biology department since 2004. He received an A.B. in biochemistry from Harvard University in 1980 and a Ph.D. in biology from MIT in 1987, then did postdoctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley.
Kaiser is co-author of a widely used textbook, Molecular Cell Biology (5th and 6th Editions). He has also organized Cold Spring Harbor scientific meetings, served on NIH review committees, and been associate editor of the journal Molecular Biology of the Cell as well as a member of the editorial board for the journal Traffic.
His honors include a Markey scholarship (1990-1996), a Searle scholarship (1992-1996), the Whitehead Career Development professorship (1994-1997) and election as an American Association for the Advancement of Science fellow (2011). In 1999, he received MIT’s highest teaching honor for the introductory genetics course he taught from 1992 to 2011.
A high-resolution photo of NIGMS director-designate Chris A. Kaiser, Ph.D., is at http://www.nigms.nih.gov/NR/rdonlyres/05637AF7-8952-4E59-BB7D-F8B9F960624C/0/Kaiser_hi.jpg.
To arrange an interview with Kaiser, contact the NIGMS Office of Communications and Public Liaison at 301-496-7301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NIGMS is a part of NIH that supports basic research to increase our understanding of life processes and lay the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention. For more information on the Institute's research and training programs, see http://www.nigms.nih.gov.
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.