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Varmus Returns to Give Mider Lecture

Former NIH director Dr. Harold Varmus showed — by leaping to the stage of Masur Auditorium, eschewing the steps — that he was indeed energized by his return to campus to give the annual NIH Director's G. Burroughs Mider Lecture on Apr. 25. A packed hall heard him review the past 40 years of research on the genetic basis of cancer, focusing on the history of mouse models of the disease.

Currently president and chief executive officer of Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, he appeared as the campus knew him best: tieless and anxious to get down to business. NIH acting director Dr. Ruth Kirschstein had announced that this year's Mider lecturer was a man who needed no introduction, and Varmus seemed to appreciate the economy. "That was a serious nonintroduction," he quipped. "Frankly, it's exhilarating to be back on campus, to see Bldg. 50 nearly completed, to see the CRC fairly leaping out of the ground, and to feel very welcome."

Former NIH director Dr. Harold Varmus (c) accepts plaque in honor of his G. Burroughs Mider Lectureship from NIH acting director Dr. Ruth Kirschstein and Dr. Michael Gottesman, NIH deputy director for intramural research. At left is the poster announcing the lecture.

He reminded the audience that the Mider lecturer traditionally hails from — and pays homage to — the ranks of intramural NIH, and that he still meets that requirement as a guest worker at the National Cancer Institute. NCI hosted his laboratory after Varmus moved it here in 1993 from the University of California, San Francisco.

Confessing to a fascination with "cabalistic computations," Varmus noted that G. Burroughs Mider, former director of laboratories and clinics at NIH, began his distinguished NIH career in 1939, the year of Varmus' birth. The Mider Lectures began in 1968, which was the first year of Varmus' two stints at NIH (1968-1970, and 1993-1999), and the first Mider lecturer was Dr. Gordon Tomkins, a friend of Varmus'.

The ex-director then blazed away with twin slide projectors into his talk, "Mouse Models of Human Cancer" before the capacity crowd.

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