Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo will be the next director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health announced Wednesday.
Marrazzo is expected to begin his role in the fall, the NIH said. She will take over from Dr. Hugh Auchincloss Jr., who has served as acting director since Dr. Anthony Fauci stepped down from the post in December.
Marrazzo is director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“This is a great opportunity for Dr. Marrazzo to make a big difference for the country, and it is a sign of the high regard that exists for both her and UAB. While we are sad to see her go, we are happy for Jeanne to have been called to this national service, and we are proud to count her among us at UAB,” UAB President Ray Watts and Dr. Anupam Agarwal, senior vice president for medicine and dean of UAB Heersink School of Medicine, said in a joint statement on her appointment.
“Dr. Marrazzo brings a wealth of leadership experience from leading international clinical trials and translational research, managing a complex organizational budget that includes research funding, and mentoring trainees at all stages of professional development,” said Dr. Lawrence Tabak, Acting NIH Director. in a statement. “I look forward to inviting Dr. Welcome Marrazzo to the NIH leadership team.”
With a budget of $6.3 billion, NIAID is the second largest center at NIH, behind the National Cancer Institute. It supports research to advance the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of infectious, immunological and allergic diseases. The institute played a central role in the nation’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, including the development of breakthrough vaccines.
NIAID supports projects at universities and research organizations around the United States, as well as a network of 21 NIAID laboratories across the country.
Fauci said Wednesday he was pleased Marrazzo had been appointed to his previous position. Fauci, 82, retired in December after nearly four decades as director of NIAID and recently joined the faculty at Georgetown University.
“She is very well liked. She is a really good person. I think she will do a really good job. I think the people at NIAID, at least the colleagues I’ve worked with over the past decades and decades, including the nearly 40 years I’ve been NIAID director, think they’ll like her, and I think she’s going to really like the team that’s there at NIAID. So I’m actually very happy with the election,” he told CNN.
Fauci warned that the road ahead would not be easy.
“What she is facing now is going to be a very complicated question about a number of new diseases, a high degree of advanced technology, which is really an important part of the research effort on infectious diseases. She too will unfortunately have to deal with, as we have seen over the last few years, a very divisive political framework where there has been an unfortunate politicization of some of the science,” he said.
Fauci said he only heard about her selection on Tuesday and had not had a chance to speak with Marrazzo. If asked for advice, he said, he would tell her to stick to the science.
“She can be challenged with attacks on her decisions. But she just has to realize that she has to do the best, she can always, always, always let her north star be science and evidence and integrity and honesty. When she does that , she will be fine,” he said.
Marrazzo is best known for his work on the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. From 2009 to 2011, Marrazzo led a large study in Africa that tested oral and vaginally applied drugs for pre-exposure HIV prevention in women. Many of the women who participated in the study were young and unmarried, and they were found to be reluctant to use these prophylactic treatments, pointing to the need for different and more acceptable options for protection. The study was published in New England Journal of Medicine in 2015.
“She is a remarkable physician, researcher and advocate,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, interim dean of the Emory University School of Medicine and president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, or IDSA.
“She has a long history of working with sexually transmitted infections and HIV prevention. And she’s a great listener, a great person and has a great personality. I mean, I’m just thrilled. She’s an excellent person for this job, ” said Del Rio, who regularly meets with Marrazzo because she also sits on IDSA’s board of directors.
Del Rio described Marrazzo as someone who enjoys traveling and bird watching in her spare time and said she is eager to come to work at NIAID.
“She loves hard challenges,” he said.