T H E   N I H   C A T A L Y S T     N O V E M B E R  –  D E C E M B E R  2000

Harvey Alter


This year’s Lasker Award for clinical medical research will be shared by Harvey Alter, chief of the infectious diseases section and associate director of research in the CC Department of Transfusion Medicine, and Michael Houghton, of the Chiron Corp. in Emeryville, Calif.

From his co-discovery of the Australia antigen to his uncovering of the existence of a "non-A, non-B hepatitis virus" that was ultimately named the hepatitis C virus, Alter’s groundbreaking hepatitis research spans more than 30 years. The Lasker Award cites his pivotal role in ferreting out the cause and drastically reducing the risk of transfusion-associated hepatitis. Houghton was cited for his isolation of the hepatitis C virus.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Lasker Award is popularly known as the American equivalent of the Nobel Prize, Alter received a perhaps even more prestigious and immortalizing honor at the NIH equivalent of the Lasker Award ceremonies—a party to celebrate the event, including a poem on behalf of Alter’s viral victims:



Lamentation of the "C’s"


When it came to hepatitis

One, undaunted, had to fight us

"Get out of the blood

You no-good crud"

His words did thus befright us

Harvey Alter was his name,

Bashing virus was his game

A researcher unsurpassed

He fought us to the last,

And never lost his aim

Our extinction, number three

Came after "A" and "B"

Our brothers, all so retro

Were the first that Alter let go


Non-A, non-B, we were victim "C"

We tried, in vein, to hide

Unknown, we’d thus reside

So close and yet so far—

Beyond your PCR

But Alter on us spied

His work will surely end us

And to our Maker send us

Before God, we shall ask Her

Why our death brought him the Lasker

When ’twas us

Made him stupendous

Celia Hooper in consultation with Michael Gottesman

On the Occasion of the Awarding of the Clinical Lasker Award to Harvey Alter, September, 2000


Duke Masters Degree

Applications for the 2001–2002 NIH-Duke Training Program in Clinical Research are now available in Building 10, Room B1L403.

Designed primarily for clinical fellows and other health professionals training for careers in clinical research, the program offers formal courses in research design, statistical analysis, health economics, research ethics, and research management. Courses are held at the Clinical Center via videoconferencing from Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C., or on-site by adjunct faculty. A Master of Health Sciences in Clinical Research is awarded by Duke to students who complete the required coursework.

Prospective participants should consult with their institute or center regarding the official training nomination procedure. Application deadline is March 1, 2001. For more information, visit the program website.


Required Course

The required course for clinical principal investigators, Clinical Research Training, will be repeated on December 12, 2000, 12:00 pm–4:00 pm in Building 10, Lipsett Amphitheater.

The course was designed to address one of the essential standards (Training and Education) recently approved by the NIH for conducting clinical research in the intramural research program. Topics include ethical issues in human subjects research, roles and responsibilities of the investigator and institution, regulatory issues, and clinical investigators and the mass media.

All principal investigators with a protocol approved through the Clinical Center are required to take the course and successfully complete an exam by March 1, 2001.

Registration will be held from November 1–30. To register, please visit the course website.

NIAMS Conference on Health Disparities

A conference on "Health Disparities in Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases" will be held at the Natcher Conference Center December 15–16, 2000 (Friday from 8:00 am to 7:30 pm, including a reception from 5:30 on, and Saturday from 8 am to noon). Conference co-sponsors include the Office of Research on Minority Health, the Office of Research on Women’s Health, the Office of Disease Prevention, and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research.

The deadline for advance registration is December 1. Register online or contact Courtesy Associates at (202) 973-8696. For special accommodations, contact Felecia Taylor at 301-594-2463 or e-mail.

Awesome Foursome

Three of 60 new members elected into the Institute of Medicine in October hail from NIH, and another is the cabinet member who oversees NIH:

Dennis Charney, chief, Mood and Anxiety Disorder Research Program, NIMH

Steven Hyman, director, NIMH

David Lipman, director, National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine

Donna Shalala, secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.



Modern Art and Science: Carmen Kaplan, special projects manager of the NIH Office of Research Services, Office of Quality Management, at her post in the Natcher lobby to provide Research Festival goers with info on the updated, comprehensive, user-friendly ORS web site. The redesign project took six months, she said, and was largely the work of OQM’s Pam Dressell. Check out the web site.


A Good Time Was Had By All: (left) Malissa Murray, technical IRTA in the NIDDK lab of Derek Le Roith, shares a Cybercafe table and a laugh with Joan Schwartz, NINDS section chief and OIR assistant director . . . and

. . (left) Charles Sanders, president of the board of the Foundation for the NIH, unveiled a plaque honoring Harold Varmus (right), Cybercafe enthusiast.

Former NIH director Harold Varmus, whose advocacy laid the groundwork for the cultivation of graduate programs at NIH, returned in a blaze of good cheer September 18 to participate in the opening ceremony of the Graduate Lounge. Located a few steps below the Building 10 lobby coffee bar, the Cybercafe offers comfortable seating around small tables, corner spots for more private conversations, and, soon, free web access. The furnishings were the gift of Fisher Scientific International, Inc., and its CEO, Paul Montrone, who serves as treasurer of the Foundation for the NIH.

Envisioned as a place for NIH’s graduate students and other trainees to mingle, the lounge is open to all; graduate students, however, have priority on reserving space for special events.


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