Sharpless sworn in as director of the National Cancer Institute

Dr. Norman E. “Ned” Sharpless was sworn in as the 15th director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) on Tuesday. Sharpless, who served as director of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center from January 2014 to June 2017, succeeds Dr. Harold E. Varmus, who stepped down as the NCI director in March 2015. Dr. Douglas R. Lowy has been serving as acting director since April 2015.

“Dr. Sharpless is an outstanding scientist, clinician, and administrator, and we are very fortunate to have him join the NIH leadership team,” said National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins. “I look forward to his insight, influence, and partnership at NCI, as cancer research is experiencing an unprecedented era of rapid progress.”

Sharpless is internationally recognized for his research into how normal cells age and undergo malignant conversion. His lab has extensively studied the interaction and regulation of the p16INK4a tumor suppressor and the proliferative CDK4/6 kinases in aging and cancer. Sharpless also was an attending hematologist oncologist at N.C. Cancer Hospital, UNC Lineberger’s clinical home.

A native of Greensboro, North Carolina, Sharpless was a Morehead-Cain Scholar at UNC-Chapel Hill, where he earned his undergraduate degree in mathematics (with distinction) and his medical degree (with honors and distinction) from the UNC School of Medicine. He completed his residency training at Massachusetts General Hospital and his clinical and research fellowship in hematology and oncology at Dana-Farber/Partners Cancer Care in Boston. He returned to Chapel Hill to accept an UNC Lineberger faculty appointment in 2002.

“I cannot think of a better choice to lead the National Cancer Institute,” said UNC Lineberger’s Interim Director Shelley Earp, the Lineberger Professor of Cancer Research and director of UNC Cancer Care. “Ned brings a remarkable combination of a probing scientific mind and clinical and administrative leadership. He cares about patients and their families and will serve the nation’s top cancer agency with distinction.”

Published Oct. 18, 2017