Varmus, Harold Eliot, 1939–, American microbiologist, b. Oceanside, N.Y., M.D. Columbia Univ., 1966. A professor at the Univ. of California School of Medicine in San Francisco, Varmus and his co-researcher J. Michael Bishop discovered the cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes, for which they were awarded the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. In 1993, he became head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and subsequently presided over a major expansion of the U.S. agency. He resigned from NIH in 1999 to head Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. In 2010 he was appointed director of the National Cancer Institute.
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