NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

ODS Director Coates Retires

Dr. Paul Coates, director of ODS.
Dr. Paul Coates, director of ODS.

Dr. Paul Coates, director of the Office of Dietary Supplements, has retired. He came to ODS as director 19 years ago after a 20-year academic career as a human geneticist and 6 years at NIH, where he was introduced to the field of nutrition and the translation of research into policy.

Under Coates’ leadership, ODS has become known around the world as a place where the scientific investigation of dietary supplements is encouraged and supported and where trustworthy advice about these ingredients and products can be obtained. 

Reflecting on his time at ODS, Coates said, “ODS has grown substantially in size, in budget and in impact over the years and it’s been a privilege to be part of that growth. I’ve had the pleasure of working with truly talented and dedicated people; I hope they have enjoyed it as much as I have.”

“Many people can retire with a sense of accomplishment and a job well-done. But far fewer can retire with the knowledge that they were pioneers in a field,” said Dr. Barry Kramer, director of the NCI Division of Cancer Prevention and former director of the Office of Disease Prevention (ODP). “Paul has been a pioneer, building the field of dietary supplement science. He has literally written the rulebooks on judging evidence in dietary supplements and has brought a large measure of order to the field.”

Coates served as acting director of ODP from December 2010 through September 2012. He also served from 1996 to 1999 as deputy director of NIDDK’s Division of Nutrition Research Coordination (DNRC). In that role, Coates helped to coordinate human nutrition research efforts, both at NIH and between NIH and other government agencies.

“Paul has been my go-to expert on many nutrition topics and on everything related to dietary supplements,” said Dr. David Murray, ODP director. “He leaves ODS acting director Dr. Joseph Betz with a full complement of federal staff and contractors, a balanced budget and a new strategic plan for the office.”

Dr. Joan McGowan, recently retired director of NIAMS’s Division of Musculoskeletal Diseases, commented, “One of the most significant leadership footprints in Paul’s tenure at ODS is in the area of vitamin D research. Paul and his staff took the leadership to identify some addressable gaps, not only in research but also in research tools like standards—working across not only NIH but other federal agencies like NIST and FDA, and internationally with a number of national health and nutrition surveys.”

Coates was co-chair of the joint DHHS/USDA steering committee overseeing plans for the National Nutrition Summit that was held in Washington in May 2000. He was also a member of the federal steering committee that oversees development of the Dietary Reference Intakes.

Prior to joining DNRC, Coates was NIDDK’s program director for the Type 2 Diabetes Research Program (1993-1996) and project officer for the multi-center clinical study called Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications (1994-1996). From 1994 until his departure from NIDDK, he maintained an active role in career development and fellowship training in the Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases.

Before coming to NIH, Coates was on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (1975-1993), where he was research professor in the departments of pediatrics and biochemistry/biophysics. His Ph.D. degree in human genetics was from Queen’s University in Canada (1972) and his postdoctoral training took place in the department of human genetics and biometry at University College London (1972-1974). 

His major research interests for many years focused on inborn errors of human lipid metabolism.

Coates conducted some of the early studies of fatty acid oxidation disorders in infants and children. With an international team of collaborators, he was responsible for defining many of the genetic defects of human mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation. He also has studied the metabolism of intestinal and hepatic lipoproteins in people, to identify the metabolic defects in inherited hyperlipidemias. These studies have led to a new understanding of the role of environmental factors, such as diet, in the manifestation of genetic disease.

In 2011, Coates received the Conrad A. Elvehjem Award from the American Society for Nutrition for public service in nutrition. In 2013, he was made a fellow of the American Society for Nutrition and was elected to serve a 2-year term as its at-large director. He is lead editor of the Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements, now in its second edition, and associate editor of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. He has published 140 original papers in the peer-reviewed literature, along with 46 editorials, reviews and chapters and 4 books.

Dr. James Anderson, director of DPCPSI, commented, “I am grateful for Paul’s leadership and dedication to ODS. The division and NIH wish him and his wife, Vivian, the very best in their retirement.”

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

Published 25 times each year, it comes out on payday Fridays.

Assistant Editor: Eric Bock (link sends e-mail)

Staff Writer: Amber Snyder (link sends e-mail)