|NIEHS To Put More Emphasis on Systematically Assessing the
Health Risks of Toxicants
Christopher Portier, Ph.D. Named Associate Director for Risk Assessment
Christopher Portier, Ph.D., will assume a new leadership role as Associate
Director for Risk Assessment at the National Institute of Environmental Health
Sciences (NIEHS), one of the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Portier will
oversee and coordinate risk assessment activities within the NIEHS and apply
the results of toxicological studies to national and international efforts dedicated
to assessing the human health risks of chemical, drugs, and physical agents.
The new position is in line with the Institute’s renewed interest in using environmental
health sciences to understand human disease and improve human health, according
to the NIEHS Director, Dr. David A. Schwartz.
“We are very excited that Dr. Portier will lead this important effort,” said
Dr. Schwartz. “Dr. Portier has done an extraordinary job in overseeing the activities
of the National Toxicology Program, and has developed strong relationships with
scientists all over the world. This new NIEHS leadership role will allow him
an opportunity to merge the fields of toxicology and environmental health sciences
and prepare the world for tomorrow’s health challenges.”
Dr. Portier has served in many prominent positions within NIEHS since his arrival
as a post doctoral student in 1981. Most recently he has served as the Associate
Director of the National Toxicology Program, the Director of the Environmental
Toxicology Program, and the Head, Environmental Systems Biology, Laboratory of
Molecular Toxicology at the NIEHS.
It was in 2001 when he was appointed to the prestigious position of the Associate
Director of the National Toxicology Program (NTP). The NTP is an interagency
program whose mission is to coordinate, conduct, and communicate toxicological
research across the U.S. government. The NTP is administratively housed at the
The culmination of Dr. Portier’s efforts at the NTP is exemplified by his role
in developing the landmark document “A National Toxicology Program for the
21st Century: A Roadmap for the Future,” which was released in 2005 as part of the
NTP 25th Anniversary Celebration in Washington, D.C. The NTP Roadmap outlines
a framework by which the NTP will modify, adapt, and improve its programs to
better address its mandate in providing scientific information for protection
of public health.
“The NIEHS remains fully committed to promoting the goals set forth in the NTP
Roadmap,” said Dr. Schwartz. “The NTP has an extremely talented and dedicated
staff that will keep the important work that the NTP does going strong.”
Some of the many other accomplishments achieved by Dr. Portier while at the
NTP include developing the first ever evaluation guideline for non-cancer endpoints
as part of the NTP’s Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction.
The NTP has also played a lead role in developing a High Throughput Screening
Initiative, which will enable large numbers of environmental substances to be
screened for potential health hazards. Dr. Portier has authored more than 150
peer-reviewed publications; 50 book chapters, reports and agency publications
in statistics, risk assessment and cancer research.
“Closely linking risk assessment processes to NIEHS research will improve the
Nation’s ability to make informed public health decisions,” said Dr. Portier. “We
will be better poised to answer the basic questions inherent to risk assessment,
including: Is it possible that this substance poses a hazard to humans? If yes,
how much is dangerous? Are humans exposed to this substance and in what ways?
Given human exposures and knowing how much is dangerous, what levels would be
safe? These are exciting times in health research and being able to focus on
bringing cutting edge research into the risk assessment arena will be a challenging
new role for me at NIEHS.”
Allen Dearry Ph.D., who most recently served as the Director of the Institute’s
Division of Research, Coordination, Planning and Translation, will act as the
Interim Associate Director of the NTP. Dr. Dearry will work closely with other
leaders in the NTP during this time of transition. Dr. Dearry served in a variety
of high profile science positions while at NIEHS, including the Chief of the
Chemical Exposure and Molecular Biology Branch, within the Division of Extramural
Research and Training. A national search for a permanent NTP Associate Director
will begin in the next three to six months.
The primary mission of the NIEHS, one of 27 Institutes and Centers at the
National Institutes of Health, is to reduce the burden of human illness and
disability by understanding how the environment influences the development
and progression of human disease. For additional information, visit the NIEHS
Web site at http://niehs.nih.gov.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research
Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of
the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary Federal
agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical
research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common
and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.