The new director of the $3 billion National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) is a recent recruit well-versed in both clinical and basic research. Cardiologist Elizabeth Nabel, 52, now chief of clinical intramural research, next week will succeed Claude Lenfant, who retired in August 2003 after 21 years as head of the National Institutes of Health's (NIH's) third largest institute.
Nabel came to NHLBI in 1999 from the University of Michigan along with her husband, Gary Nabel, who was hired to head NIH's new vaccine research center. Elizabeth Nabel has worked on gene therapy for damaged hearts and runs a lab at NHBLI that studies the regulation of cell growth in blood vessels. Her appointment will make NHBLI the fifth of NIH's 27 institutes and centers currently headed by women.
Nabel expects to maintain investigator-initiated basic research--which "must be protected," she says--while spurring the translation of discoveries to patients. She's interested in "innovative, creative ideas" and promoting technologies such as genomics, proteomics, and imaging. The challenge, she admits, is to do that at a time when NIH's budget growth has ground to a halt.
In announcing the appointment, NIH director Elias Zerhouni described Nabel as having a "well-rounded scientific background and strong management skills." Outside scientists are pleased with her appointment. Nabel is "a superb scientist...in an excellent position" to steer basic, translational, and clinical research, says molecular cardiologist Roberto Bolli of the University of Louisville, a member of NHLBI's advisory council.