After more than six years heading the federal behemoth, the radiologist will be leaving at the end of October as part of what he called "the natural cycle of tenures for this positions," during a teleconference with journalists. "It's with mixed emotions that I move on." He is rumored to be in the running to take a top position at Johns Hopkins University, sources says. (Official statement).
During his reign, Zerhouni led the development of the "NIH Roadmap for Medical Research," a $2 billion, five-year plan designed to boost biomedical research by shifting NIH resources on bioinformatics, systems and structural biology, genomic database establishment, and nanomedicine projects, encouraging cross-disciplinary collaboration, and funding clinical and translational research. "I think it's clear that science has changed tremendously with the explosion of discoveries," Zerhouni said on the conference call.
Despite its success, Zerhouni oversaw some turmoil as well. As The Scientist points out, the NIH budget plateaued on his watch, and federal funding of the agency remains level today. He also watched the success rates for new R01 grants plummet from about 18 percent in 2002 to about 9 percent in 2005.
Zerhouni was criticized for appointing David Schwartz, former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, who resigned from his post earlier this year amid allegations of mismanagement and misconduct, the mag notes. Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, recently chastised Zerhouni over NIH-funded scientists who alleged failed to disclose financial ties to drug and device makers (back story).
Prior to his appointment as head of NIH, the Algerian-born radiologist was the executive vice-dean of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a professor of radiology and biomedical engineering there and at Eastern Virginia Medical School. Zerhouni said today that he doesn't "have a job lined up," and that he plans on resting before transitioning into a new position. "I wanted to take some time out."