Washington Editor

WASHINGTON President Bush on Tuesday said he intends to nominate Algerian-born Elias Zerhouni to serve as director of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

“Dr. Zerhouni shares my view that human life is precious and should not be exploited or destroyed for the benefits of others,” Bush said in a press conference. “And he shares my view that the promise of ethically conducted medical research is limitless.”

Zerhouni, 50, is the executive vice dean at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, the chairman of the department of radiology and radiological science at Johns Hopkins, and a professor of radiology and biomedical engineering.

Bush described Zerhouni as an “expert in biomedical research.”

A few weeks ago, the buzz around Washington was that Zerhouni supports a bill introduced by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) calling for a ban on all types of cloning.

Any movement to ban all cloning could impact research scientists and drug companies looking toward therapeutic cloning as a means of developing treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, diabetes and other diseases. (See BioWorld Today, March 11, 2002.)

The NIH, which employs about 15,000 people and has a proposed budget next year of about $27.3 billion, has operated without a chief for two years. Former director Harold Varmus resigned during the Clinton administration to accept another position.

Bush also said he will nominate Richard Carmona to serve as surgeon general, America’s chief health educator.

Carmona currently serves as the clinical professor of surgery and clinical assistant professor of family and community medicine at the University of Arizona in Tucson, and he is the chairman of the State of Arizona Southern Regional Emergency Medical System.

In a prepared statement, Carl Feldbaum, president of Washington-based Biotechnology Industry Organization, said, “BIO is pleased that President Bush has made both nominations for these high-profile positions that are critical to the medical and health leadership of the United States. Biotechnology has been and will continue to make important contributions to medical research and to the public health of our citizens, including defenses against biological weapons. These nominations have been a high priority for our industry.”

Both candidates must be confirmed by the Senate.