by Harold Varmus '61
In 1993, Varmus’s prominence in research and his interest in science policy led to his appointment by President Clinton as director of the world’s largest science funding agency, the National Institutes of Health. There Varmus helped to double the NIH budget to support grants for basic and clinical research and strengthened the research programs within the NIH itself. After six years at the NIH, Varmus took the reins as president of the world-renowned Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, where he established new graduate training programs and oversaw the construction of a new research center and new clinical facilities.
Throughout his career, Varmus has maintained his focus on important societal issues—as a passionate proponent of more equitable means of distributing scientific work, such as public digital libraries and “open access” publishing; as an advocate for global health, initially focused on the worldwide malaria crisis; as a nuanced supporter of human embryo and stem cell research; and as a scientist studying the cancer-causing genes that inspired the development of recent targeted therapies for cancer. In addition, he has continued his own lab work, remains deeply committed to collaborative science, and still rides his bike to work.
Organized into short sections that combine the science behind Varmus’s discoveries with the passion that directed his intellectual path, THE ART AND POLITICS OF SCIENCE is at its core a book about some of the greatest scientific, medical, and social issues of our time. This memoir provides a glimpse into the world of high stakes, big-budget science, pulling back the curtain on tensions between laboratory researchers and clinical investigators, between scientists and politicians. For scientists and science-enthusiasts alike, it is an eye-opening education from a leader in the field whose own research and professional commitments have helped to shape our scientific age.
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