Harold Varmus to Step Down as President of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center


Harold Varmus, the president of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) since the start of 2000, announced today that he has asked the MSKCC Boards of Overseers and Managers to begin a search for his successor.

I believe that the institution would now benefit from a fresh approach to the issues it will face in the decade ahead.
Harold Varmus, President, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

The announcement was made as part of his annual New Year message, emailed to all MSKCC employees this morning. Varmus, co-recipient of a Nobel Prize in 1989 for the discovery of cancer genes, was recruited to the Center ten years ago, after heading the National Institutes of Health for over six years during the Clinton Administration. In his statement today, he noted his original intention to serve as MSKCC’s President for about ten years and stated that, despite continuing to enjoy his position at the Center, “I believe that the institution would now benefit from a fresh approach to the issues it will face in the decade ahead.”

During his tenure at MSKCC, Varmus has overseen remarkable growth of its research and patient-care programs; construction of several buildings, most notably the Zuckerman Research Center; renovation of major clinical facilities; and development of training programs, including a cancer biology doctoral program in the newly created Gerstner Sloan Kettering Graduate School. He has achieved greater interaction between MSKCC’s clinicians and laboratory scientists through program development and recruitment of many outstanding individuals, and he has promoted collaboration among academic institutions through a variety of new research activities and advocacy of biotechnology in New York City. During this period, Varmus and the leaders of the MSKCC Board also mounted a successful fund-raising campaign that has recently passed the two billion dollar mark.

“Since joining Memorial Sloan Kettering in 2000, Harold has provided exceptional and visionary leadership for the institution. He has emphasized opportunities to harness recent advances in the biological sciences to improve the care of patients with cancer.” said Douglas A. Warner III, Chairman of the Boards of Overseers and Managers of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “Our continued success as an institution is due in great measure to Harold’s expertise and far-sighted leadership.

“At this critical time, we are looking strategically at the leadership needs of this great institution. The presidency of MSKCC is one of the most important biomedical positions in the world and finding the right person is the Boards’ highest priority,” said Mr. Warner. “We are grateful to Harold for his skilled guidance of MSKCC over the past ten years, and we look forward to his continued help as the Board searches for his successor in the coming months.”

In today’s statement, Varmus indicated that he plans to continue in his present position until a successor has been identified, and he will remain the head of his laboratory in the Cancer Biology and Genetics Program at the Sloan Kettering Institute and an active member of the teaching faculty. Since early in 2009, he has served as a co-chair of President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. He is also the chairman and co-founder of the Public Library of Science and chairman of the Global Health Advisory Committee at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Last January, he published a career memoir, The Art and Politics of Science, which recently received the annual science book prize from the Phi Beta Kappa Society.