The National Academy of Sciences has nominated Bruce M.Alberts as its next president. If the NAS's membership votes inhis favor, Alberts will take the reins in July from currenttwo-time president and geophysicist Frank Press.

Alberts is the only nominee for the presidency. NAS presidentscan serve two six-year terms.

Alberts, a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at theUniversity of California, San Francisco (UCSF), did pioneeringstudies on the mechanism of DNA replication. Alberts concernfor the state of science education in the United Statesenhanced his appeal as a presidential candidate to theWashington, D.C., Academy leaders.

The Academy's working arm, the National Research Council, isasked by Congress or government agencies to report on publicpolicy concerns, according to NAS spokeswoman Susan Turner-Lowe. Occasionally, however, the NRC initiates a study.

"They try to get ahead of the important issues they know arecoming up, " Alberts told BioWorld.

This approach has led to NRC reports on critical biotech-related concerns, such as the intentional release into theenvironment of bioengineered organisms.

"This was a major study that had a major impact," Albertssaid. He has also chaired the NRC's study of the human genomeinitiative, which addressed issues such as whether a specialeffort to map the human genome was necessary; what strategyshould be used to distribute the resources; and how to handlethe moral and ethical issues.

If he is elected president, said Alberts, he will "try to makethe NRC studies as relevant as possible (not only in the area ofbiotechnology)." In biotechnology, Alberts feels his biggestimpact would be "to work with others to improve scienceeducation and develop skills."

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.