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Norman Sharpless sworn in as director of the National Cancer Institute

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NCI Press Office


NCI Director Dr. Norman E. Sharpless

Credit: National Cancer Institute

Norman E. “Ned” Sharpless, M.D., took the oath of office late Tuesday, October 17, 2017, to become the 15th director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health. He succeeds Harold E. Varmus, M.D., who stepped down as director in March 2015. Douglas R. Lowy, M.D., has been NCI’s acting director since April 2015.

“It is an honor to welcome Dr. Sharpless to the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health,” said Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric D. Hargan. “We are grateful to Dr. Lowy for his service as acting director, and we look forward to Dr. Sharpless playing an integral role in this administration’s aggressive efforts to advance cancer research and cures for cancer patients.”

“Dr. Sharpless is an outstanding scientist, clinician, and administrator, and we are very fortunate to have him join the NIH leadership team,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins M.D., Ph.D. “I look forward to his insight, influence, and partnership at NCI, as cancer research is experiencing an unprecedented era of rapid progress.”

Dr. Sharpless comes to NCI from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, where he served as director of the NCI-Designated Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and as the Wellcome Distinguished Professor in Cancer Research. As a practicing oncologist at the N.C. Cancer Hospital, the clinical arm of Lineberger, he specialized in the care of patients with hematologic cancers. He is the author of more than 150 original scientific papers, reviews, and book chapters, and is an inventor on 10 patents. His research has focused on the molecular biology of cancer and aging.

“I am honored and humbled to assume this role at NCI, the world’s premier cancer research institution,” Dr. Sharpless said. “This is an exciting moment for cancer research, as new discoveries and technological improvements are accelerating our progress against cancer, an ancient and unrelenting foe.”

After earning his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Dr. Sharpless completed his internal medicine residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital and a hematology/oncology fellowship at Dana-Farber/Partners Cancer Care, both of Harvard Medical School in Boston. He is a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians. He cofounded two clinical-stage biotechnology companies: G1 Therapeutics and HealthSpan Diagnostics.

Dr. Lowy will resume his role as a deputy director at NCI, and will continue his work as chief of the Laboratory of Cellular Oncology in NCI’s Center for Cancer Research.

About the National Cancer Institute (NCI): NCI leads the National Cancer Program and NIH’s efforts to dramatically reduce the prevalence of cancer and improve the lives of cancer patients and their families, through research into prevention and cancer biology, the development of new interventions, and the training and mentoring of new researchers. For more information about cancer, please visit the NCI website at or NCI’s Contact Center (formerly known as the Cancer Information Service) at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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