Statement by the President
HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala today announced that Gary Nabel, M.D., Ph.D.,
has been chosen as Director of the Vaccine Research Center (VRC) at the
National Institutes of Health. The Center's initial focus is to develop
candidate vaccines against HIV.
"President Clinton has challenged the nation to develop a vaccine against
AIDS in the next 10 years," said Secretary Shalala. "I am extremely pleased
that Dr. Nabel has joined us to accept that challenge. He brings the
expertise, innovative thinking and leadership we need to achieve that goal."
"Gary Nabel is a superb scientist who has excelled at the frontiers of
virology, immunology, gene therapy and molecular biology," said NIH Director
Dr. Harold Varmus. "As a result of his experiences with clinical and
laboratory research in academia and extensive interactions with industrial
partners, he is remarkably well prepared to lead the complex,
multidisciplinary and collaborative activities that will be required to
develop an effective HIV vaccine. His recent work on novel strategies for
gene therapy for AIDS and for vaccines against cancer and Ebola
virus illustrates the imagination and drive that he will bring to the NIH
Vaccine Research Center."
Dr. Nabel, who will assume this position on April 11, comes to NIH from the
University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he is the Henry Sewall professor
of internal medicine and professor of biological chemistry. He also is a
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.
A novel venture within the NIH intramural research program, the VRC receives
joint funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
(NIAID) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and is spearheaded by NIAID,
NCI and the NIH Office of AIDS Research.
In May 1997, President Clinton set a goal to develop an AIDS vaccine within
10 years. The NIH responded by creating the VRC, a state-of-the-art
biomedical research laboratory that will facilitate the development of
vaccines. The Center will stimulate multidisciplinary research, from basic
and clinical immunology and virology through vaccine design and production.
The VRC will integrate modern immunological science with a detailed
understanding of how HIV disease develops, the creation of novel vaccine
vectors and immunogens and new vaccination strategies.
In response to the announcement, Dr. Nabel said, "I'm honored and excited by
the opportunity to contribute to vaccine development through this unique
center at the NIH. The development of an AIDS vaccine remains a formidable
challenge and an urgent need, and the VRC hopes to drive the development of
effective vaccines with our partners in academia, industry and the public."
Currently the VRC is a center without walls, involving a core group of NIH
scientists with expertise in immunology, virology and vaccine development.
Construction of a five-story facility on the NIH campus, which began in
August 1998, is expected to be completed by mid-2000. When the VRC is fully
operational, Dr. Nabel will oversee about 100 scientists and support staff.
Dr. Nabel's interest in HIV gene therapy, supported by NIAID for the past 10
years, began with basic research and progressed systematically to clinical
studies. He and his colleagues developed Rev M10, a competitive inhibitor
of the HIV Rev protein, which is required for HIV replication. The Rev M10
gene, when introduced into cells, makes a protein that prevents authentic
REV from binding to the cell, thereby short-circuiting HIV's replication
cycle. In 1996, they reported on the first HIV gene therapy trial, in which
three HIV-infected patients had been infused with their own CD4+ T cells
that had been modified with the Rev M10 antiviral gene. The scientists
found that CD4+ T cells containing Rev M10 survive longer in the blood than
unmodified cells, with no adverse side effects. His group continues work to
improve this novel therapeutic strategy.
Dr. Nabel is also one of the first researchers to develop a DNA-based
therapeutic vaccine against cancer. He and his colleagues have used direct
gene transfer to introduce therapeutic proteins into patients with melanoma.
Their clinical studies were among the first to demonstrate the feasibility
and safety of this approach. NCI has supported this research for eight
He also has applied his gene therapy expertise to the deadly Ebola virus.
In late 1997, Dr. Nabel led a group of researchers who reported on their
successful experiments in guinea pigs showing that a DNA-based vaccine could
generate protective immune responses to Ebola virus.
Dr. Nabel graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1975. He then
entered the university's M.D.-Ph.D. program, completing his Ph.D. in 1980
and his M.D. two years later. He continued to divide his time between
research and medical training. From 1980 to 1984, he worked as a
postdoctoral research fellow in the Laboratory of Immunopathology at the
Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Meanwhile, after completing his
medical degree, he pursued an internship and residency training in internal
medicine at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital. In 1985, he joined the
laboratory of David Baltimore, Ph.D., at the Whitehead Institute in
Cambridge, working there for two years as a research associate. Dr.
Baltimore, now president of the California Institute of Technology, chairs
the NIH AIDS Vaccine Research Committee.
In 1987, Dr. Nabel became an assistant professor of internal medicine and
assistant professor of biological chemistry at the University of Michigan in
Ann Arbor. He also was named an assistant investigator of the Howard Hughes
Medical Institute there.
Dr. Nabel has served on several NIH advisory committees, including the NIAID
AIDS Research Advisory Committee, which he chaired from 1996-97.
His honors include the James Tolbert Shipley Prize for Research from Harvard
Medical School in 1982, the Midwest American Federation for Clinical
Research Young Investigator Award in 1992 and the ASBMB-Amgen Scientific
Achievement Award in 1996. Last year, he was elected a member of the
Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. In addition to
his faculty positions, Dr. Nabel has been director of the Center for Gene
Therapy at the University of Michigan Medical Center since 1997, and
co-director of the University of Michigan Center for Molecular Medicine
since 1994. Dr. Nabel currently is associate editor of the Journal of
Virology and the Journal of Clinical Investigation and serves on the
editorial boards of several other journals.