WASHINGTON, D.C.--Earlier this month, Richard Klausner traded his biomedical research battleship for a speedboat, and he's looking forward to feeling the spray on his face. His transition from the $3.7 billion National Cancer Institute (NCI)--the flagship of the National Institutes of Health--to the Case Institute of Health, Science and Technology, a small outfit in Washington, D.C., has left colleagues curious. Last week, in an interview with Science, the 49-year-old biologist for the first time detailed his plans and how they will be funded.
Klausner says the institute hopes to inject about $100 million over the next few years in two areas. One is a life sciences informatics initiative, aimed at developing better computerized systems for organizing and analyzing data; this will be largely in-house research. The other is a "molecular monitors" program; it will disburse grants for developing new technologies to identify and monitor chemicals linked to diseases and biological processes. The two initiatives, Klausner says, are the "logical next steps to the things I loved to do at the cancer institute: large projects oriented toward the linkage of science and technology" that bring together researchers across disciplines.
Klausner isn't worried about stepping on other funders' toes. The institute's areas of interest fall within "crowded fields," he admits, but they offer "some novel niches."
The new institute is funded by America Online founder Steve Case and his wife, Jean Case (Science, 14 September, p. 1967), and is likely to operate on a pay-as-you-go basis, with the Cases providing fresh funds each year. The budget "would be driven by the science," Klausner says.
The institute will soon occupy five buildings in Washington's central Dupont Circle neighborhood, with room for administrators, visiting scientists, and a significant in-house informatics program. Klausner's first top hire is MaryAnn Guerra, his former deputy director for management at NCI, who was tapped this week to be a vice president.
As for the reason he left NCI, Klausner said he relished the opportunity to lead a new and nimble organization. He also noted that instead of having scores of political bosses, he now answers to "a board of two people"--the Cases.