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NIH Record

Fischbach To Direct NINDS

Dr. Gerald D. Fischbach, a Harvard neurobiologist, has been named director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, succeeding Dr. Zach Hall, who left last fall for a post at the University of California, San Francisco. Fischbach is the Nathan Marsh Pusey professor of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School and chair of the departments of neurobiology at HMS and Massachusetts General Hospital. He was also founding director of Harvard's Initiative on Mind, Brain, and Behavior.

He will oversee a staff of more than 700 and an annual budget close to $800 million. The institute supports research by investigators in public and private institutions across the country, as well as by scientists working in 23 intramural laboratories and branches at NINDS.

Dr. Gerald Fischbach will take over
the reins at NINDS on July 15.

"I am very pleased that Dr. Fischbach will be joining us at the NIH," said NIH director Dr. Harold Varmus, who made the appointment. "At a time when our understanding of the biology of the brain and nervous system is beginning to offer great opportunities to transform medical practice, it is important to have a distinguished physician and scientist at the helm of the NINDS. Dr. Fischbach's collaborative skills will make him an effective partner with the other NIH components involved in the neurosciences, and his leadership skills will benefit all of the NIH."

Fischbach noted, "This is a remarkable time in the field of neuroscience. Exciting discoveries at all levels of analysis from molecules to mind have led to a more profound understanding of the normal and diseased brain. It is an honor to be asked to serve as director of NINDS at this time, and it is a welcome obligation to help the NIH remain the world's most important force promoting biomedical research."

Fischbach is an internationally renowned neuroscientist who throughout his career has studied the formation and the maintenance of connections between nerve cells and their targets. He developed methods for growing nerve and muscle cells outside of the body, and he has used such tissue cultures to study small molecules and proteins that alter synaptic efficacy.

Among his many honors, Fischbach is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has served on numerous editorial and advisory boards including the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation and the McKnight Foundation. He is a past president of the 28,000-member Society for Neuroscience and he has been a trustee of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. He is currently a nonresident fellow of the Salk Institute.

Fischbach received his undergraduate degree in mathematics and chemistry from Colgate University in 1960 and his M.D. from Cornell University Medical School in 1965. After interning in medicine at the University of Washington, he worked at NIH for 8 years, first as a senior surgeon with NINDS, and later as a staff fellow at the then National Institute of Child Health. Between 1973 and 1981, he served as an associate professor and later as a full professor of pharmacology at Harvard Medical School. In 1981, he accepted the position as chairman of the department of anatomy and neurobiology at Washington University School of Medicine. Before leaving St. Louis to return to Boston and his current positions, Fischbach became director of Washington University's Jacob Javits Center for Excellence in Neuroscience, and the John S. McDonnell Center for Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology. Fischbach will join the NINDS staff on July 15.

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