Although he describes himself as a “dyed-in-the-wool academic”, Mark Fishman is leaving his posts at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School after 25 years to head the new Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In his new role, he hopes to alter the “sociology of science”, making it easier for scientists in academia and industry to work together and to move back and forth between the sectors. “The new sociology should have the best of academia, biotech and industry,” Fishman says. “It should have the sense that it's an exciting, creative culture, and also that it's open, and non-secret.” He suspects that issues relating to intellectual property are the biggest obstacles to overcome in achieving such an environment.
One aspect of the job that appeals to him is its scope. Initially, he will have to hire 400 scientists, although eventually this number could more than double. “The future of biology is going to be large-scale,” Fishman says. One of the institute's main large-scale efforts will be developing animal models — one of Fishman's strengths. As chief of cardiology at the Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Fishman helped to introduce the zebrafish as a model organism for both cardiovascular development and cardiovascular diseases.
One of the institute's main personnel needs, Fishman predicts, will be finding scientists who can analyse models once they have been created. “The biologist has a sense of what's a meaningful pathway, or can simplify or interpret complexity,” he says. Fishman suspects that academic scientists are increasingly willing to work in drug discovery. “There's a sense that their discoveries could contribute directly to health.” That reason — along with his own acceptance of large-scale biology following the draft completion of the human genome — ultimately drew him to the job.
ETHICS AND GENETICS
As assistant director of the US National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, Kathy Hudson led the policy, planning, education and communication efforts for the Human Genome Project. But this April, she left government work to head the new Genetics and Public Policy Center. The centre is based in Washington and is affiliated with the Berman Bioethics Institute at Johns Hopkins University. There, Hudson will examine the ethical, scientific and legal issues of genetic testing “along the entire chain of reproductive decision-making”. This will include thorny issues such as whether or not to screen newborn children for genetic diseases.
The institute will issue policy options and analyses of different possible decisions rather than offer explicit policy recommendations. Hudson, who enjoyed her broad scope in the Human Genome Project, is pleased to be focusing more intensely on a narrower set of issues with her new post.
Two scientists who were chosen to help bridge the bench-to-bedside gap at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York have started their new jobs. Both were drawn to the institute in part because of its president, Harold Varmus, the former director of the US National Institutes of Health. But each has taken markedly different career paths to reach a similar point. Thomas Kelly joined after 30 years at Johns Hopkins University, whereas Robert Wittes switched from academia to government, to industry, and back to government before coming to Sloan-Kettering.
Kelly was chairman of molecular biology and genetics at Johns Hopkins. As chairman of the Sloan-Kettering Institute, he will lead the institute's basic science effort. He left a “terrific environment” at Johns Hopkins because he “was looking for a new challenge”.
At first, he was reluctant to accept Varmus' offer, but was convinced after Varmus told him about several major initiatives. These include a 23-storey research building, filling new joint appointments with Rockefeller University and Cornell, and raising the number of principal investigators from 100 to about 150.
Wittes will be physician-in-chief at the cancer centre. For him, his new job is like coming home — he spent his early years at the New York institution. He then joined the National Cancer Institute (NCI), but left to spend two years with drug company Bristol Myers. He returned to the NCI and eventually became its director of extramural science.
Although his experiences are varied, he feels that there are common threads that prepare him for his present post. “For much of the past 20 years I've spent time helping to conceptualize and run large national or international programmes either in government or industry,” he says. Wittes expects that his experience, combined with Kelly's science background and under Varmus' leadership, will help to turn the promise of contemporary science into medical therapies. “If any place could realize the promise of translating science, this one can,” he says.
John Marriott was last month appointed as Britain's Government Chemist by the Department of Trade and Industry. He will be based at LGC, an independent analytical lab in Middlesex, where he has worked since 1998.
Munich-based GPC Biotech has expanded its clinical-development group in Princeton, New Jersey, by appointing Edward McNiff as vice-president, pharmaceutical development; Thomas McKearn as vice-president, medical affairs; Michael Petrone as vice-president, clinical operations; and John Slayback as director for analytical and formulation development/outsourcing.
Ulrich Simon last month became executive vice-president and general manager of the microscopy business group for Carl Zeiss, in Oberkochen, Germany. He has been with Zeiss since 1994, most recently as head of the advanced imaging microscopy division.
Alison Gadd was this spring appointed as head of regulatory affairs at British Biotech. Gadd joins the Oxford company from Pfizer.
Elke Jordan, deputy director of the US National Human Genome Research Institute, is to retire.
William Bonfield and Michael Redmond retired this month as non-executive directors of London-based Biocompatibles International.
Sandy Weinberg, vice-president for entrepreneurship at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, has been named as the Linnaeus Chair, a post funded by Amersham Biosciences.