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Vol. LVIII, No. 14
July 14, 2006

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For CSR's Radtke, NIH-Based Fiction Comes True

As the romance novel Grant Denied opens, the heroine's application to NIH has been turned down. She confronts the scientific review administrator "Grant Norris" on the phone then barges in to see him. But he is "not at all like the monster she'd expected to challenge. He was young, athletic and handsome, and he looked good in khaki pants, a silk shirt and a bright tie."

Mike and Kathie Radtke have now been happily married for almost 3 years.  
The applicant impresses too: ".He debated whether he should hold her for security."

There are ups and downs along the way, but the book ends with Grant belatedly declaring his love for Eve, the former grant applicant. "Eve rested her head against Grant's shoulder and allowed her tears of joy to flow. No longer worried, no longer alone, she felt her spirit soar. She'd found her true love."

Fiction, yes, but the novel includes a dedication to a real scientific review administrator in the Center for Scientific Review: "For Dr. Mike Radtke — With appreciation for the good thoughts you sent my way."

Recently confronted with these words on the frontispiece of Grant Denied, Radtke didn't deny his role. He helped the writer, Jennifer Sinclair, a friend, with descriptions of how CSR carries out its role in screening and judging the grant applications NIH receives. He even jokingly suggested some romance novel plot turns. To his surprise, she used them. The novel was published by Commonwealth Publications in 1996.

But that's not the end of the story. Fiction eventually turned real: Seven years after the book was published, Radtke, a widower, was phoned by a chemist who had gotten a poor score from his bioorganic and natural products chemistry study section. She was every bit as irate as the fictional applicant, even though another of her grant applications had recently been greeted with enthusiasm in another integrated review group. As he often does, Radtke suggested that the unhappy applicant learn more about the review process by volunteering as an ad hoc review participant. She did.

Sometime later, after the review meeting was over and the study section post-meeting emails were history, the two met off-campus. Despite their angry beginnings, they found they liked each other.

As Radtke tells it, "The rest is history." He and Kathie dated, and "of course, as soon as I kissed her" his study section could no longer review her applications or those of her university. They have now been happily married for almost 3 years, and between them have four grown children. One, Alesia Booth, works in NIH personnel.

Kathie is now a tenured associate professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and has two active NIH grants. Neither was reviewed or influenced by Radtke, he is quick to add.

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