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NIH Record - 75th Anniversary - National Institutes of Health

Former NIH Director Wyngaarden Mourned

Dr. James B. Wyngaarden

Dr. James B. Wyngaarden

Former NIH director Dr. James B. Wyngaarden died June 14 at age 94 in Durham, N.C., after a long illness. Appointed by President Ronald Reagan, Wyngaarden served as NIH director for more than 7 years, from April 1982 through July 1989.

Among the major challenges that he tackled during his tenure were the nation’s biomedical research response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the emergence of recombinant DNA and other ethically charged biotechnologies. Wyngaarden also initiated NIH’s leadership role in the international Human Genome Project.

Wyngaarden also was instrumental in setting up the Children’s Inn at NIH, which provides lodging and support for families of children receiving treatment at the Clinical Center.

“I am grateful for Dr. Wyngaarden’s selfless dedication to NIH’s mission of turning scientific discovery into health,” said NIH director Dr. Francis Collins. “Whether researcher, health care provider, or patient, we are all benefiting from his wisdom to this day and will remain forever in his debt.”

Before coming to NIH, Wyngaarden was a professor and chair of the department of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine. An internationally recognized authority on the regulation of purine biosynthesis and the genetics of gout, he was also well known for his strong advocacy for the importance of physician-scientists in biomedical research. He also served on numerous NIH committees and a number of Presidential-level panels, including the President’s Science Advisory Committee and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission’s advisory committee on biology and medicine.

Wyngaarden is survived by three daughters, a son, 18 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

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