NIH 1998 Almanac/The Organization/NCI/
National Cancer Institute: Biographical Sketch of NCI Director
Richard D. Klausner, M.D.
Dr. Klausner was born in New York City on December 22, 1951. He became the 11th
director of NCI on August 1, 1995.
Trained as an internist, he combined patient care and basic research in the early days
of his career. He earned his undergraduate degree from Yale University in 1973 and his
M.D. degree from Duke Medical School in 1976. He was a fellow in internal medicine at Duke
Medical Center in 1976-1977.
From 1979 to 1981, following additional training in internal medicine at Massachusetts
General Hospital, Dr. Klausner began his research career at NIH in NCIs Laboratory
of Mathematical Biology. He worked at NIADDK from 1981 to 1984, when he became chief of
the Cell Biology and Metabolism Branch at NICHD.
He is one of the most frequently cited scientists in the world in cellular and
molecular biology. His work elucidated general and novel mechanisms for the regulation of
complex genetic networks in human cells. He is a renowned leader in the study of iron
metabolism and hematochroma-tosis, a disease of impaired regulation of iron uptake by body
tissues, which is associated with subsequent development of cirrhosis and liver cancer. He
also illuminated the structure and function of the T-cell antigen receptor, the central
molecule of the immune system.
Dr. Klausner is an expert on how certain cell surface receptors enable antigens to
activate the immune response, and he has contributed to an understanding of the molecular
basis for how the cell recognized abnormal or incompletely synthesized antigens, and
retrieves and eliminates them. His studies illuminated novel pathways by which molecules
traffic and speak to each other within the cell. Most recently, he has collaborated with
NCI scientists to study the VHL gene, a member of a new class of tumor suppressor genes,
which play a key role in the development of human kidney cancer.
His research has been recognized with numerous awards and honors, including the
Outstanding Investigator Award from the American Federation of Clinical Research and the
William Damashek Prize for major discoveries in hematology. He was elected to the National
Academy of Sciences in 1993 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1995. He
received the 1997-1998 Dickson Prize in Medicine, created to honor the nations
outstanding leaders in science and medicine, and the 1998 Raymond Bourgine Award,
recognizing exceptional scientific achievements.
Dr. Klausner has served on the editorial boards of several scientific journals
including Chemistry and Biology, Analytical Chemistry, New Biologist,
Cell, the Annual Review of Cell Biology, and the Journal of Cell Biology.
He is a past president of the American Society of Clinical Investigation and has been
chairman of the National Science Education Standards Projects of the National Academy of
Science, overseeing the first comprehensive process to provide a vision of scientific
literacy in the American educational system and the criteria required to achieve it. He is
the author of a textbook of medical immunology and of a widely use textbook of internal
Directors of NCI