News Release

Friday, April 3, 2009

NIH Director Welcomes Three New Members to the Advisory Committee to the Director

The National Institutes of Health announces the selection of three individuals to serve as members of the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD). Since 1966, the ACD has advised the NIH Director on policy and planning issues important to the NIH mission of conducting and supporting biomedical and behavioral research, research training, and translating research results for the public.

"These new members to the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director will bring an even greater depth and range of expertise to this dedicated team of advisors," said Acting NIH Director Raynard S. Kington, M.D., Ph.D.

The new members of the council are Maria Freire, Ph.D., of New York, New York; Beatriz Luna, Ph.D., of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and James Thrall, M.D., of Boston, Massachusetts.

  • Maria C. Freire, Ph.D., is the president of The Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation. Prior to her appointment at the Lasker Foundation, Dr. Freire was the chief executive officer and president of the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development. An internationally recognized expert in technology commercialization, Dr. Freire directed the Office of Technology Transfer at the NIH from 1995 to 2001. Prior to that, Dr. Freire established and headed the Office of Technology Development at the University of Maryland at Baltimore and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Dr. Freire trained at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima. She received a Ph.D. in Biophysics from the University of Virginia and completed postgraduate work in immunology and virology at the University of Virginia and at the University of Tennessee, respectively. She is the recipient of a Fulbright fellowship as well as two U.S. Congressional Science fellowships. Dr. Freire is a member of the Institute of Medicine, and she has been active on a number of national and international boards and committees. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the HHS Secretary's Award for Distinguished Service, the 1999 Arthur S. Flemming Award and the 2002 Bayh-Dole Award. Dr. Freire became the president of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation in 2008.
  • Beatriz Luna, Ph.D., is an associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, and training faculty in the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition and the Center for Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Dr. Luna, born in Santiago, Chile, did her undergraduate training at the American University in Washington, D.C. and her doctoral training at the University of Pittsburgh, in addition to obtaining a clinical degree from Duquesne University. As the founder and director of the Laboratory for Neurocognitive Development, Dr. Luna's primary focus has been in using innovative brain imaging technologies to characterize how brain mechanisms underlying cognitive skills mature during adolescence. This work provides insight into how vulnerabilities inherent to adolescence lead to psychopathology and risk-taking behavior, and is central to the recent view that brain function continues to be immature during adolescence. In 2005, she received the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering for her pioneering work investigating the neural basis of developmental changes in behavior through adolescence.
  • James H. Thrall, M.D., is the Juan M. Taveras Professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School and radiologist-in-chief of the Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Thrall received his B.A. and M.D. degrees from the University of Michigan. He came to Harvard from the Henry Ford Hospital, where he served as chairman of the Department of Radiology. Prior to that, he served as professor of internal medicine and radiology at the University of Michigan. Dr. Thrall is internationally known for his work in nuclear medicine and for his development of research programs in radiology. He has served on the boards of several national organizations devoted to radiology and currently serves as chairman of the Board of Chancellors of the American College of Radiology and secretary of the Academy of Radiology Research. He is a past president of the American Roentgen Ray Society.

Additional information about the ACD is available at

The Office of the Director, the central office at NIH, is responsible for setting policy for NIH, which includes 27 Institutes and Centers. This involves planning, managing, and coordinating the programs and activities of all NIH components. The Office of the Director also includes program offices which are responsible for stimulating specific areas of research throughout NIH. Additional information is available at

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): 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. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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