Dr. Marvin Cassman Named NIGMS Director

Release Date:
Ann Dieffenbach, NIGMS
(301) 496-7301
Anne Thomas, NIH
(301) 496-4461

Harold Varmus, M.D., director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has announced the appointment of Marvin Cassman, Ph.D., as the new director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). Dr. Cassman has been deputy director of NIGMS since 1989, and has served as the Institute's acting director since July 1993. NIGMS supports basic biomedical research that is not targeted to specific diseases, but that increases understanding of life processes and lays the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

"Dr. Cassman is an outstanding scientist and scientific program manager whose skills are ideally suited for this position at the helm of NIH's 'basic research institute.' His expertise in such areas as structural biology, biotechnology, science policy, and technology transfer will be especially valuable at NIGMS and at NIH as a whole," said Dr. Varmus.

"Over the years, Dr. Cassman has proven himself to be astute at perceiving trends in biomedical science and innovative in creating new approaches to meet areas of opportunity or need," Dr. Varmus added. "His many accomplishments include a program to determine high-resolution molecular structures for use in designing antiviral drugs targeted against AIDS and a program to provide shared biomedical research instrumentation that has become a model for similar efforts at NIH and elsewhere."

Dr. Cassman was selected after a nationwide search by a committee of distinguished scientists, which recommended top candidates to Dr. Varmus.

As NIGMS director, Dr. Cassman will oversee a $947 million budget that funds basic research grants in the areas of cell biology, biophysics, genetics, developmental biology, pharmacology, physiology, and biological chemistry. At any given time, NIGMS supports more than 3,300 research grants--about 13 percent of the grants funded by NIH as a whole. NIGMS also supports research training, as well as programs designed to increase the number of minority biomedical scientists.

"A major role of NIGMS is to ensure the long-term health and productivity of the basic biomedical research enterprise," said Dr. Cassman. "This means, among other things, bringing new investigators into the system in appropriate numbers through both training and research support, encouraging innovative ideas, and linking the basic science output to the requirements of society. All of this needs to be done while attempting to provide some stability to the many outstanding investigators whose ongoing research accomplishments are making the end of the 20th century one of the great periods for science in history. Attempting to balance these demands is a challenge to which we must all respond, and I look forward to leading NIGMS in its efforts to meet this challenge."

After receiving bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Chicago, Dr. Cassman earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1965 at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Following a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Howard Schachman at the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Cassman joined the faculty of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Dr. Cassman came to NIGMS in 1975 as a health scientist administrator in the Cellular and Molecular Basis of Disease Program. In 1978, he was named chief of the program's Molecular Basis of Disease Section, and in 1985, he became director of the NIGMS Biophysics and Physiological Sciences Program. He has also worked in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President, as a senior policy analyst, and as a legislative fellow on the staff of the House Subcommittee on Science, Research, and Technology.

Among the NIH committees on which Dr. Cassman has served are the AIDS Executive Committee, the Bioengineering Working Group, and the Task Force on the Commercialization of Intellectual Property Rights from NIH-Funded Extramural Research. In 1995, Dr. Cassman chaired a committee that examined the organization and activities of the NIH Division of Research Grants and made recommendations to Dr. Varmus. Many of these recommendations have been or are now being implemented. He is also a member of the National Science Foundation Advisory Committee for Biological Sciences and of the advisory board of Chemical and Engineering News.

Dr. Cassman's honors and awards include the 1991 Presidential Meritorious Executive Rank Award and the 1983 NIH Director's Award. He is a member of the Protein Society and the American Chemical Society.

To schedule an interview with Dr. Cassman, call Ann Dieffenbach at (301) 496-7301.

Please fax clips to (301) 402-0224.