NIH Vaccine Chief Joins Big Pharma

Gary Nabel, one of National Institutes of Health’s most prominent researchers who heads up the agency’s Vaccine Research Center (VRC) – has announced that he will become chief scientific officer at Sanofi this month.

Dr. Nabel joins Sanofi from the National Institutes of Health, where he served as Director of the Vaccine Research Center (VRC) of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1999. During his tenure at the NIH, Dr. Nabel provided overall direction and scientific leadership of the basic, clinical, and translational research activities of the VRC and guides development of novel vaccine strategies against HIV and other emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, including Ebola/Marburg hemorrhagic fevers, influenza, chikungunya and other viruses.

Nabel, when talking about his former VRC position said that there was “nothing about the job that I don’t like.”  He said he decided to switch to Sanofi because it would cut his commute time.

It’s a position he is ideally suited for, considering his extensive connections with the government agency, according to Dr. Mercola.

Elias Zerhouni, the former director of the NIH, actually recruited him for the position. Zerhouni is now the head of Sanofi-Aventis’ research labs, as well as a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, a member of the Board of Trustees at the Mayo Clinic, and a senior fellow for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program.

This comes as no surprise, considering Zerhouni is no stranger to, said Dr. Mercola.

In the fall of 2003, the NIH — with Zerhouni at the top — faced grave accusations when it came to light that hundreds of its scientists had financial ties to the medical and pharmaceutical industries. According to a 2004 article in the NIH Record, over 100 scientists did not get approval for their industry activities, even though the rules were so loose virtually all requests to conduct outside work were approved by the agency, without any limits on compensation or hours worked for outside entities.

Nabel says he shares Zerhouni’s vision to put Sanofi “in the first tier of scientifically driven research organizations in pharma, along the lines of what Genentech did in the ’90s.”

Dr. Nabel will report directly to Dr. Zerhouni, and will join the group’s Global Leadership Team. He will be based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“Dr. Nabel’s impressive scientific record and experience will be extremely valuable to the Group”, declared Christopher A. Viehbacher, Chief Executive Officer, Sanofi. “I am confident that with his leadership, we can drive R&D further towards tomorrow’s breakthrough discoveries.”

In his new position, Dr. Nabel will be responsible for assessing and coordinating Sanofi’s scientific direction for biopharmaceuticals, vaccines and animal health with a focus on improving translational approaches across Sanofi. In his role, he will lead the evaluation of scientific quality of projects and programs across all of R&D, and participate in setting Sanofi’s overall strategy

“I am very excited that Dr. Nabel will join Sanofi’s R&D organization,” said Dr. Elias Zerhouni. “Our challenges today require that we re-invent our R&D model. Gary’s experience will be invaluable to help us achieve this goal.”

“I am honored and excited to join Dr. Zerhouni and the Sanofi team, ” said Nabel. “By strengthening our scientific base, we hope to accelerate the rational development of innovative treatments that will save lives and improve human health.”



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