Ten weeks after leaving the top job at the $4 billion National Cancer Institute (NCI) to start a new biomedical research institute, biologist Richard Klausner has jumped again, this time to help the government combat terrorism. He will serve as a liaison between the U.S. National Academies and the government's antiterrorism efforts while maintaining a lab at NCI. Klausner's surprise move--to be announced tomorrow by the academies--means that the $100 million organization he was supposed to lead has folded before it even began.
Klausner announced his departure from NCI on the morning of 11 September, just as the planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (Science, 14 September, p. 1967). He said he had a commitment from Jean Case and her husband, America Online founder Steve Case, to fund the Case Institute of Health, Science and Technology, with him at the helm. In October, he told Science that the Cases had agreed to spend nearly $100 million over the next few years on bioinformatics studies and other life sciences research, including grants to outside researchers and hiring an in-house science team.
Those plans were shelved earlier this month, Klausner says, after his volunteer work as the co-chair of a new National Academies panel on antiterrorism began to take the lion's share of his time and interest. "The Cases and I felt that launching something new from scratch wasn't doable" given his time commitment to antiterrorism efforts, he says. "The nation's interests come first, and we fully support [Klausner's] decision," says Jean Case.
Klausner, who says that his new position "is a calling," estimates that it will take up half his time for at least a year, leaving him an opportunity to continue running his NCI laboratory. National Academy of Sciences president Bruce Alberts says Klausner will be responsible for keeping an eye on the academies' many studies on terrorism-related subjects, helping fulfill government requests for immediate technical assistance, and sharing potentially useful ideas with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). OSTP head John Marburger says Klausner's knowledge of Washington will make him "a very effective interface" between science and government.
Jean Case says there are "no plans to revisit" the idea of creating the institute. Klausner's two assistants have shifted to other work within the larger Case Foundation, which supports a variety of education and technology programs.
With reporting by Eliot Marshall.