Recorded: 18 Aug 2003
I was always interested in science and laboratory work. And as a medical student I used my spare time in the pharmacology lab at Michigan. Which happened, it wasn’t exactly that I was interested in pharmacology, but that was the most exciting young dynamic department. And I spent about a year in the laboratory off and on while a medical student. I published several papers then. I knew that when I finished my hospital training that I was going to go into research and I did. That was in the early days of the NIH. The NIH was just being set up. And I was recruited by Jim Shannon, who was later the director of the NIH. At that time he was in the heart institute. And when I finished my work in Boston as a resident at the Massachusetts General Hospital, I had an appointment to the NIH and because the laboratories at Bethesda were a little slow in being completed, I had a year in New York I spent in biochemistry in a laboratory there. And then moved to Bethesda where I stayed for about four more years. So I had a stretch there for about five and a half years full time in research, But it was very biochemical. There’s not much that you would call genetics, except that some of the things that I worked on were related to genetic diseases.
James B. Wyngaarden is a medical doctor, biochemist and medical science advisor. He served as director of the National Institutes of Health, associate director for Life Sciences in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President, and as director of the Human Genome Organization. Wyngaarden is currently part of the Washington Advisory Group, LLC and director of four biotechnology/pharmaceutical companies. Wyngaarden is also co-author of the textbook The Metabolic Basis of Inherited Disease.
He researches the regulation of purine biosynthesis, the production of uric acid and he helped initiate the use of allopurinol, a drug developed as an anticancer agent and now used as a treatment for gout.
While serving as director of the National Institutes of Heath, he enlisted the help of Dr. Watson in 1988 to begin the Human Genome Project. Jim obliged and joined the NIH as the associate director for Human Genome Research, while still acting as director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.