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NIH Record - 75th Anniversary - National Institutes of Health

ODS Acting Director Betz Retires After 33 Years

Dr. Betz

Dr. Joseph Betz

Dr. Joseph M. Betz retired on Dec. 31, after serving as the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) acting director for 4½ years. He worked for 33 years in the federal government—20 at ODS.

Betz joined ODS in 2002 as the first director of the Analytical Methods and Reference Materials (AMRM) Program, where he oversaw several large intra- and extra-governmental initiatives that provided robust, validated analytical methods and reference materials for accurately and reliably measuring the composition of natural products in research, industry and regulatory settings. 

In June 2018, he was appointed ODS acting director, guiding staff through:

  • elevation of ODS to an office reporting to the director of the NIH Office of the Director’s Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives (DPCPSI)
  • successful transition to remote work due to the Covid-19 pandemic
  • drafting of a new strategic plan and producing ODS’s 25th anniversary symposium
  • launch of a new dietary supplement research coordinating committee.

“I would like to acknowledge and express my appreciation for the outstanding leadership that Joe has provided to ODS,” said Dr. Robert Eisinger, DPCPSI acting director. “We wish him the best of health and happiness as he begins this next phase of his life and career.”

An internationally recognized pharmacognosist, Betz is an expert on botanical identification and phytochemistry. In graduate school in the 1980s his doctoral research was on natural product drug discovery. 

While in grad school, he also worked with the nascent herbal goods industry to develop analytical methods for ginseng products to distinguish between authentic Panax species and species falsely sold as ginseng.

After earning his doctorate in pharmacognosy, he spent 12 years as a research chemist in the Division of Natural Products at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. While at FDA, Betz led a team that worked closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify a dangerous contaminant in L-tryptophan supplements. 

In addition, after FDA identified serious adverse events associated with Ephedra supplements, Betz developed analytical methods to be used for enforcement actions on products containing ephedrine. He created and directed FDA’s Natural Toxicants in Food Plants Program and expanded the program to include development of analytical methods for bioactive substances in dietary supplements. 

Before joining ODS, he was vice president for scientific and technical affairs at the American Herbal Products Association, where he worked to improve industry supply chain transparency and traceability.

When Congress mandated that ODS support collaborative efforts to validate analytical methods and develop reference materials for dietary supplement ingredients, Betz joined ODS to build and manage AMRM. 

Betz participates in a lecture

Betz during a virtual lecture

Betz is an adjunct associate professor in the department of pharmacology and physiology at the Georgetown University School of Medicine. His research has included developing analytical methods for botanical quality and determining bioactive plant secondary metabolites. He’s well versed in food law, drug law, dietary supplement regulations and good manufacturing practices. 

Betz has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, has lectured extensively and has been a member of many expert committees. He is a member of the American Society of Pharmacognosy, a fellow of the Association of Official Analytical Collaboration (AOAC International), past chair of the editorial board for the Journal of AOAC International and a member of the U.S. Pharmacopeia’s expert committee on dietary supplements. He also serves on expert scientific advisory committees for the governments of Canada and Hong Kong. 

Betz earned numerous awards, including the Norman R. Farnsworth Award for Excellence in Botanical Research, the Varro E. Tyler Prize for outstanding scientific contributions to the field of dietary supplements, the Herbal Insight Award for contributions to the botanical sciences, the AOAC International Harvey W. Wiley Award for Excellence and Development of Analytical Methods and the G.H. Neil Towers Award. 

He received an Office of the Director Honor Award for contributions toward establishing and developing the ODS Vitamin D Standardization Program.

“We know Joe as a thoughtful and dedicated mentor, and a compassionate leader,” concluded ODS colleagues. “He’s also a wearer of bowties and a collector of lawn and desktop flamingoes. We’re fortunate to have enjoyed working with Joe and have benefited from his leadership for the past 4.5 years.”

Betz now serves as an NIH special volunteer and can be located in the global email directory.

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