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Harold E. Varmus

Harold E. VarmusAKA Harold Elliot Varmus

Born: 18-Dec-1939
Birthplace: Oceanside, NY

Gender: Male
Religion: Jewish
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Scientist, Publisher, Doctor
Party Affiliation: Democratic

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Genetic causes of cancer

Working with J. Michael Bishop, virologist Harold E. Varmus showed that normal genes in healthy cells can sometimes cause cancer. Called oncogenes, the routine function of these genes involves cellular growth and division, but, if these genes are absorbed into viruses or affected by chemical carcinogens, they can trigger cancer. Varmus and Bishop were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology in 1989. True to his scientific reputation, when reporters first informed Varmus he had won the highest honor in science, he refused to celebrate until confirming it with the Nobel Institute.

Varmus is former President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and presently Director of the National Cancer Institute. He is an advocate of an open access system for scientific papers, and critical of the long-time practice of scientific journals being available only by subscription, which can cost thousands of dollars annually. As an alternative, he co-founded the Public Library of Science, which now makes academic writings freely available to anyone with web access.

His brother-in-law is novelist John Casey, author of Testimony and Demeanor.

Father: Frank Varmus (physician)
Mother: Beatrice Varmus (social service worker)
Sister: Ellen Jane Varmus (genetic counselor)
Wife: Constance Louise Casey (reporter-gardener, m. 25-Oct-1969)
Son: Jacob Varmus (jazz trumpeter, b. 1973)
Son: Christopher Isaac Varmus (performance artist, b. 1978)

    High School: Freeport High School, Freeport, NY (1957)
    University: BA English Literature, Amherst College (1961)
    University: MA English Literature, Harvard University (1962)
    Medical School: MD, Columbia University (1967)
    Scholar: Medicine, Columbia University (1967-68)
    Scholar: Molecular Biology, National Institutes of Health (1968-70)
    Teacher: Microbiology and Immunology, University of California at San Francisco (1970-79)
    Professor: Microbiology and Immunology, University of California at San Francisco (1979-)
    Scholar: Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1988-89)
    Administrator: Director, National Institutes of Health (1993-1999)

    National Cancer Institute Director (2010-)
    Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center President/CEO (2000-10)
    National Institutes of Health
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Cancer Society
    Council on Foreign Relations
    Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
    Federation of American Scientists Board of Sponsors
    Hillary Clinton for President
    John Kerry for President
    National Academy of Sciences
    National Leadership PAC
    Obama for America
    Public Libary of Science Co-Founder, Chairman
    Science Debate 2008
    Scientists and Engineers for America
    World Health Organization Commission on Macroeconomics and Health
    World Technology Network
    Lasker Award 1982
    Nobel Prize for Medicine 1989 (with J. Michael Bishop)
    Library of Congress Living Legend 2000
    National Medal of Science 2001
    Vannevar Bush Award 2001 (with Lewis Branscomb)
    Austrian Ancestry Maternal
    Jewish Ancestry
    Polish Ancestry Paternal

Author of books:
Retroviruses (1997, with John M. Coffin and Stephen H. Hughes)
Genes and the Biology of Cancer (1993, with Robert A. Weinberg)


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